Wolcott baseball comes up short in Class M final loss to Nonnewaug

Wolcott third baseman Joe Ferrucci waits for a throw that never comes as Nonnewaug’s Matt Palumbo slides in safely after taking two bases on an errant pickoff throw during Saturday’s Class M baseball state final at Palmer Field in Middletown.

The Wolcott High baseball team couldn’t have scripted a better beginning in Saturday’s Class M state final against Nonnewaug at Middletown’s Palmer Field.

It was the middle and the end that eventually did the Eagles in as the Chiefs secured their first-ever baseball state championship with a 10-8 comeback victory. Wolcott finished an incredible run one win short with a 17-9 record. Nonnewaug ended its historic season at 22-3.

Wolcott jumped on Nonnewaug for two runs in the top of the first inning. Josh Dunne ripped a two-out, two-run double over Chief right fielder R.J. Barksdale’s head to the fence in the top of the first inning. The double brought home Nick Sconziano and Joe Ferrucci.

In the top of the third inning, AJ Martinez rocketed a three-run home run to right field that gave the Eagles what seemed to be a commanding 5-0 lead. Martinez drove in himself, Sconziano and Drew Rocca with the homer.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Chiefs got those five runs back, and then some, in an eight-run explosion. Dylan Chung (two-run double), Ryan Ponte (RBI single) and Matt Palumbo (RBI single) all had key hits, but there was also a wild pitch and passed ball that led to two other runs.

It was an inning that could give any team shellshock. Nonnewaug added two more runs in the fifth on a booming two-run double by Palumbo for its own five-run lead, 10-5.

Wolcott needed its own magic, and it came off the bat of Sconziano in the sixth. Sconziano lined a two-run single to center field. When an errant throw skipped away from the catcher, a third run scored, and the Eagles were back in the game at 10-8. Rocca made a bid to keep the rally going, but center fielder Nick Rose made a great running catch to end the inning.

Wolcott had shown the ability to come back on several occasions already in the state tournament, and it appeared to be on the way to another triumph in the seventh inning. Martinez was hit by the first pitch of the inning, then Ferrucci singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. The Eagles tried to get the tying runs into scoring position, but a bunt was popped up and caught by the catcher Palumbo for the first out. The second out came via strikeout, which brought up Logan Szep. Szep, who kept Wolcott’s season alive against New Fairfield with a two-out single in the seventh, made contact off a Rose pitch and sent it just to the right of the pitchers’ mound. Rose slightly deflected the ball with his glove. Owen Palmer, who started on the mound but had later switched to third base before moving to second base when Rose replaced Chung on the mound, ran toward the ball. Palmer fielded it and was able to tag out pinch runner Luke Colfer to end the game and set off a Nonnewaug celebration.

Wolcott was left to think about what could’ve been, but the run it went on shouldn’t be forgotten. The Eagles won four straight games by one run to reach the final, including an incredible three in eight innings. Wolcott wound up as the last team standing from the NVL and proved it was worthy of playing for the state championship.

Of note: Longtime local coach Jim Alberto guided the Chiefs to their first-ever state championship as their interim head coach. Alberto, who has coached teams in Waterbury and surrounding towns, took over midseason for Frank Melillo, who resigned due to increased work obligations.

Alberto is from Waterbury and went to high school at Crosby.

GALLERY: Here are my photos from Saturday’s final.