Redemption is served: St. Paul baseball gets its state championship

Behind the right arm of sophomore Joey Tonnotti and the sweet left-handed swing of senior Ryan Daniels, the St. Paul baseball team got its redemption and won a state championship Saturday at Palmer Field in Middletown.

There was no letdown for the top-seeded Falcons, who were focused and took care of business, defeating third-seeded Somers, 5-0, in the Class S state final. The final out was recorded when freshman third baseman Cal Chance charged a grounder and fired to senior first baseman Mario Izzo.

Tonnotti threw a complete game and gave up just two hits.

“I told him when the sixth inning was starting, just six more outs. You’ve gotten how many hundreds of outs this season? This is just like the rest of them, just go right at them and get it done,” Daniels said. “You don’t have many pitches left, so get them right away. He’s really special, and he’s our guy.”

When asked it felt like to win the championship, Tonnotti said there was no feeling like it.

“I think every high school kid looks forward to that, and just the fact that I was able to be in that exact situation, it was special to me,” Tonnotti said.

St. Paul head coach Vic Rinaldi applauded Tonnotti’s effort, one that didn’t include his best stuff.

“The funny thing is, I was talking to Jarrett (Stawarz), our pitching coach, on the bench. He didn’t have his best stuff,” Rinaldi said. “That was probably like a ‘B’ rather than an ‘A-plus’ Joey. Even a ‘B’ Joey was two hits, no runs, so Joey was great.”

It would have been scary to see what the “A-plus version” of Tonnotti would have been like on the big stage.

St. Paul’s offense was led by Daniels, who had the home run, plus an RBI single in the first inning. Once again, the rally started with junior leadoff batter and second baseman Devin Kulas. Kulas smacked a ball to the left center field gap that hopped up and over the wall for a ground-rule double, then moved up to third on a wild pitch with Daniels up. After Daniels got his RBI single, Izzo boomed an RBI double to left center field. Somers finally got the first out of the inning, but Tonnotti singled home Izzo for a 3-0 lead. Daniels’ two-run blast in the bottom of the fourth inning, a no-doubter to right field, plated Cal Chance (infield single) and made the score 5-0.

“You know that you’re going to have some backup for you,” Tonnotti said about having a run producer like Daniels in the lineup.

Somers did get some runners on base, but Tonnotti worked his way through each situation.

“Joey was phenomenal, like he’s been all year for us. Joey just throws strikes,” Rinaldi said.

Tonnotti said his fastball was his best pitch, which he used while trying to find his slider. After the game, Daniels said he knew what it felt like to be on the opposite baseline, watching the other team celebrate. Coginchaug and future UConn teammate Kolby Pascarelli celebrated at St. Paul’s expense last year.

“I didn’t know what it felt like until today obviously, and it’s a really good feeling to come back here and prove that we belong here,” Daniels said. “Last year, Kolby made it look like it didn’t belong here, and this year we do and Kolbe’s in the stands, which is even cooler.”

Kulas had felt good about St. Paul’s chances at practice in the week leading up to the final.

“There’s definitely a little nerves going into this game, but we sort of know who they are. We’ll have a plan going in. We’ll be prepped for it,” Kulas said.

The Falcons were ready, they proved that they belonged, and they won the state title that eluded them the year before.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from the championship game.

PHOTO CAPTION: Jamie Leggett bats while St. Paul fans cheer him and his team during this past Saturday’s Class S baseball state championship game at Palmer Field in Middletown. The Falcons won their fourth state championship and first since 2016. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)