NEW MILFORD — The Prospect-Beacon Falls American Legion baseball team put an end Sunday to a winless streak that lasted 41 games. Posts 194-25 pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in a 4-3 extra-inning win over New Milford.
It’s been a long journey for head coach Don Ensero and general manager Jeff Clarke, along with assistant coaches Joe Steele, Dave Spofford and Tim Flanagan. But on Sunday in the second game of the doubleheader against New Milford, the winless streak came tumbling down as Matt Spofford turned in a gutsy performance on the hill.
“We were all so excited about the win I called the two post commanders, Bob Moraniec from Prospect 194 and Bruce Carlson from Beacon Falls 25,” Clarke said.
There was no jubilant celebration following the historic win as the PBF players handled the situation with dignity that would make Posts 194 and 25 proud, according to Clarke.
“They were happy obviously,” he said. “But they handled it with class and acted like they’ve been there before. The smiles on their faces said it all.”
Matt Wysocki, Matt Butterworth and Dylan Cummings singled to load the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning. Nate Clarke pulled the trigger and drove a two-run single to put PBF on top, 2-0.
Spofford surrendered a run in the bottom of the frame but threw a complete game with four strikeouts. His teammates were right back at it in the top of the second, setting up runners at the corners. Robert Stach reached third and Joe Poeta took a lead off first base when the coaching staff called for a double steal.
Poeta took off for second, drawing the throw that pushed Stach home to put PBF on top by a 3-1 margin. Wysocki, Butterworth and Poeta had two hits each to pace the 10-hit attack.
New Milford staged a comeback, adding runs in the sixth and seventh inning to tie the game. But the defensive play of infielders Mike Touhy and Steve Kazalunas and outfielders Kevin Gabianelli (team-leading .333 average) and Eric Beutel kept New Milford in check.
In the eighth, Poeta knocked his second hit of the game and Wysocki plated the eventual winning run on a hit to put Posts 194-25 on top, 4-3. New Milford came to bat in the bottom of the frame but Spofford kicked the door closed to give PBF its first taste of victory as American Legion baseball players.
PBF began last season with a group of younger players and struggled through an 0-27 campaign. Much to the players’ credit, the entire team came back this year with a few more players added to the roster but with the same bulldog, we’ve-not-given-up attitude.
Posts 194-25 is still the youngest team in Zone 5 — if not the state — but PBF has knocked on the door rather loudly all season, dropping a 4-0 decision to Oakville (11-4) before taking Zone 5 leader Waterbury (13-2) to the limit, in a tough 1-0 loss.
“These kids have gone through a lot over the last two seasons,” Clarke said. “But they are troopers. They never gave up and always kept a positive attitude. They grew closer together because of what they have gone through and this game is a building block towards the future of this team.”
Joe Fancher, Ryan Flanagan, Mike Conway and Anthony D’Agnone represent the veterans on the team and that experience has rubbed off on the younger players, building the confidence to a level that resulted in the team’s initial victory. Mike Framski, Sam Merriman and Kyle Soisson are a core of younger players who have helped make PBF a more competitive team this year.
PBF is back in action on Thursday versus Oakville at Woodland. Posts 194-25 will travel to Danbury for a Saturday doubleheader before hosting Waterbury on Sunday morning.