Caselli, Stratford edge rival Bunnell
Brian Caselli doesn’t go into games wondering how he’s going to pitch himself out of pressure situations.
“I don’t look forward to them,” Caselli said. “I want to get 1-2-3 every inning.”
However, when he needs to get himself out of jams, the senior right-hander knows how to get the job done.
Caselli did it over and over Saturday afternoon, allowing Stratford to pull out an exciting 5-4 victory over city-rival Bunnell in front of a large Senior Day crowd at the Bunnell High School field.
Bunnell (10-7, 8-3 SWC) had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, but Caselli struck out opposing pitcher Justin Lasko to preserve a tenuous 5-4 lead. The Bulldogs threatened to tie the game again in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out on a single by standout senior third-baseman Brandon Sheehan (2-for-4) and an infield error.
But Caselli was up to the task, getting the next two batters with a strikeout and a pop fly as Stratford (10-5, 5-4 SWC) completed a season sweep over Bunnell while keeping itself in the thick of the conference playoff race.
“If the (pressure situations) come to me, I love it,” said Caselli, who improved to 4-2 on the season. “Getting out of a jam feels like the best thing in the world. Like when I struck out that kid with the bases loaded, it felt amazing.”
Bunnell collected nine hits, including doubles by catcher Geovoni Gonzalez and Andrew Scully. Stratford’s defense didn’t help the cause with four errors and a number of other mental mistakes, leading to three unearned runs. But Caselli battled hard when the Red Devils needed him the most, finishing with three strikeouts and just one walk during a 110-pitch effort.
“We got a senior response from him. I call it senior eyes,” Stratford head coach Joe Rietano said. “He really threw some clutch pitches when he had to.”
The fact that it came on one of the hottest days of the season, and on enemy soil with Bunnell’s blue and white banners fluttering all over the stadium, only made his effort more impressive.
“Hats off to Caselli. He had a helluva day on the mound,” Bunnell head coach Scott Szturma said. “He gutted it out. They put a senior on the mound and he won the game for them.”
Bunnell went the other route, handing the ball to promising freshman Ronnie Rossomando, a tall, hard-throwing right-hander who went into the game with a 5-1 record.
Rossomando looked unhittable over the first two innings, allowing one walk and one soft single to catcher Nick DiIollo (2-for-3), striking out four of the first six batters he faced while getting up to 85 on a speed gun being wielded by one of the two scouts on hand.
Lasko, who allowed no runs and one hit over the final 2.2 innings in relief, is also a freshman.
“They’re both really good freshmen pitchers,” Caselli said. “Stratford’s going to have a tough time against them over the next few years.”
The Red Devils finally got to Rossomando in the third as third-baseman Alex Tyler (2-for-3) knocked a single to right to lead off. Tyler scored on a two-out RBI single by Axel DeJesus.
Stratford added two runs in the fourth on two walks and consecutive two-out RBI singles by Tyler and speedy left-handed leadoff batter Jordan Weiss then chased Rossomando with one out in the fifth after scoring two more times on singles by Chris Reyes and Joe DeFrancesca, a walk by Caselli and an RBI single by DiIollo.
Josten Beato drove in the fifth Stratford run off Lasko on an infield groundout.
The heat, the rivalry and the pressure of pitching on Senior Day in front of a large crowd mingled to make it a rough day for the future standout.
“It was all of the above,” Szturma said of Rossomando. “He had some control troubles toward the end. He just lost a little confidence in all the excitement. That’s what happens when you throw a freshman into the soup like that. It’s a learning experience for him.”
Bunnell scored its first run in the second as Gonzalez reached second on a misplayed fly ball to center and a two-out single by Bryan Castelot.
The Bulldogs tied it 3-3 with two runs in the fourth on a double by Gonzalez, an infield error, an RBI-groundout by Rossomando and an RBI-single by White. Sheehan reached on an error in the fifth and scored after a double by Scully and an RBI-single by Nick Giammettei.
The Bulldogs just couldn’t come up with that one big inning.
“We had our opportunities,” said Szturma, whose team also dropped a 7-2 decision against Stratford in April at Penders Field. “We chipped away and chipped away, but just couldn’t put up a big inning. But we didn’t roll over and I was very excited about that.”
The victory came at a perfect time for Stratford, which play five games in four days beginning Monday and culminating in a day-night double-header against Barlow on Thursday at Penders.
“We have a big week coming up,” Caselli said. “This is a great way to end this week because we didn’t play all week because of the rain. To come out of the gym and do this is amazing.”
Needing to go on a winning streak to reach the SWC playoffs, the Red Devils hope this win will work as an emotional springboard for the stretch run.
“This is a good momentum-builder,” Caselli said. “To scratch some runs off a really good freshman pitcher hopefully should get us going.”