St. Paul seeks redemption today in title game

They’re back, and they mean business.

The St. Paul baseball team (25-1 overall) plays in its second straight Class S state championship game today at 3:30 p.m. at Middletown’s Palmer Field, but the top seed is looking for a much different result against third-seeded Somers (20-5) overall.

“We only lost two seniors last year. Both of them helped us out a lot, but we aged a little bit, we grew up, realized let’s get back here, let’s battle and see how far we can go,” said senior catcher Casey Cerruto. “We’re here, but now we’ve got some revenge to do as (senior pitcher Brendan) Foley said, try to bring (the championship) back to school.”

The Spartans took down fellow NVL school, No. 7 Oxford, by a score of 9-3 in a semifinal Tuesday at Palmer Field. The Falcons won, 7-0, over Immaculate-Danbury Tuesday night behind an absolutely dominant performance from Foley (6 1/3 innings, 4 hits, 14 strikeouts, 2 walks). Foley did his job and avenged a tough performance in the loss to Coginchaug in the 2021 final.

For coach Vic Rinaldi, it’s not about what Somers has been doing. It’s about St. Paul.

“I think we just have to worry about our gameplay. If we continue to do what we’ve been doing during the tournament, we should be fine,” Rinaldi said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s a pretty simple formula in high school baseball. If you throw strikes, make plays behind (your pitchers) and hit just enough, you’ll win a lot of games, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

What worked well for a chunk of Tuesday’s semifinal was the way St. Paul’s hitters attacked Immaculate sophomore left-hander Tommy Conley. The Falcons looked to hit the ball back up the middle or the other way. Junior second baseman Devin Kulas led off with a single to center field. Senior Ryan Daniels went the other way deep into the hole between short and third and reached on an infield single that scored Kulas. Cerruto smacked an RBI single the other way to right field. Sophomore lefty Joey Tonnotti grounded a single through the left side. Junior righty Steve Morelli grounded to second, which scored a run. Junior Jamie Leggett went back up the middle for an RBI single.

“It was more about our approach against the lefty yesterday and having a plan at the plate,” Rinaldi said. “We did a good job of that, especially in the first inning, then we kind of bookended that at the end with getting the lefty out in the end. I think we did a really good job.”

“It shows that our guys, we can work,” Kulas said. “We’re not just dead-red pull guys, we can all parts of the field when we’re hitting.”

Cerruto said the team reported to St. Paul at two o’clock Tuesday to get some more swings in.

“We were hitting here, and then we were going to go hit at Palmer. We only had a limited time to hit (there), so we wanted to get more swings here, which I think helped a lot,” Cerruto said.

What Cerruto wants his team to do today is keep being aggressive.

“It doesn’t matter if the score is 4-0 or 1-0, it doesn’t matter. If you’re up 7-0, you can’t just drop the bats,” Cerruto said.

As for the mound, St. Paul gives the ball to Tonnotti, a sophomore right-hander who is 11-0 on the season. Rinaldi jokingly said he wasn’t sure who was pitching before coming clean and saying Tonnotti would pitch. The rest of the Falcon staff is also available.

“We’re going with Tonnotti. Joe’s pitching. I think the whole state knows Tonnotti’s pitching,” Rinaldi said.

Foley meant business on Tuesday, and Tonnotti is the guy today.

“Joey’s going to be more than ready for the challenge on Saturday,” Rinaldi said.

In terms of what winning would mean, it’s simple. It would mean everything to St. Paul after leaving last season without the state championship it coveted.

“I can’t wait. I’m excited, but we’ve still got to work to do,” Foley said after Tuesday’s game about today’s final. “We’re hoping to get it done.”

PHOTO CAPTION: St. Paul baseball is back at Palmer Field in Middletown today for the Class S state championship and is looking for the title that eluded it in 2021. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)