By Mike Madera
Special to the Voice
With the top of Zone II taking shape early in the 2018 season, every game becomes critical for those in the hunt for a postseason spot. Orange Post 127 has taken notice.
Sitting in third place in zone play, Post 127 understands it has to take care of its own business and the rest will take care of itself.
Pitcher Mike Ficaro made sure he did his part. Holding West Haven to just two hits, while striking out ten in six innings of work, Ficaro helped lead his team to a 6-0 victory over West Haven Post 71 at Piurek Field in West Haven Friday evening.
“I just had to settle in,” Ficaro said. “It took an inning, but I was able to do so. I have to give credit to their pitcher (Sean Morrissey). This heat was tough, and he was able to go a long way. I knew we needed this game. I just went out and did my job. We are taking it one game at a time. I just go out there to pitch to win.”
Orange (7-2) scored the only run it would need in the first inning when Marc Chodos singled with one out, stole second, and scored on a single to left by Jared Smith. Although West Haven used a double play to get out of the inning, the damage was already done by Post 127.
West Haven (3-9), on the flip side, could have seen what type of game it was going to be in the first inning. Not only did the Westies draw three walks and have a batter hit by a pitch without scoring, they lost second baseman Mario Kiaunis for the game when he was hurt sliding into second base.
“Mario (Kiaunis) getting hurt was a big loss,” West Haven coach Fred Morgillo said. “He is one of our leaders and he is a middle infielder. We do not hit. We do not situational hit. That’s a problem. When you get down two runs, it’s like eleven.”
West Haven had the first three batters of the game on base by way of walks from Ficaro, but had a runner picked off second. With two outs, Austin Ormrod was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Ficaro got out of the jam when Justin Uribe grounded to third.
That was one of two real threats in the game for the Westies as Ficaro allowed just a two-out walk to Brian Pataky in the second, and a one-out single to Nick Flammia in the third.
“He struggled to find the strike zone early with his fastball, but he settled down after that,” Orange coach Joe Pisano said of Ficaro. “He settled down nicely and did a great job. We needed that.”
After Orange took a 2-0 lead in the fifth, West Haven had its last opportunity to get in the game as Mike Tonucci walked with one out, moved to second on a ground out, and third on a single by Flammia.
Flammia stole second to put a pair of runners in scoring position, but Ficaro escaped by striking out Steven Byrd to end the threat.
Post 127 increased its lead to a pair of runs in the fifth inning with a two-out rally against West Haven starter Sean Morrissey as Mike Shepa walked and Peter Spodnick was hit by a pitch. Chodos followed with a single to center and Shepa looked as if he was going to be out at the plate on a strong throw by Flammia, but Byrd was unable to handle the throw, allowing Shepa to score for a 2-0 advantage.
“When you look at the zone this year, it is a little deeper,” Pisano said. ‘It is up to us to manufacture runs and find a way to make sure our pitchers are taken care of.”
Orange padded its lead in the seventh as a double by Shepa coupled with a West Haven error scored Corris. Chodos plated another with a sacrifice fly, before the third run of the inning scored on another West Haven error, its fourth of the game.
West Haven scored its lone run of the game in the seventh when Derek Baker walked and later scored on an error.