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The Bethel Admirals 17U American Legion Baseball team has had quite a summer. The Admirals, who include Newtown players Bryan Vander Have, Sammy Smith, Josh Taylor, Sam Eppers, and Brett Melchionno, carried a record of 22-1 into the state playoffs.
The Admirals were the top team in the Zone 5 standings and began postseason play with a 6-1 victory over Avon, at Bethel High, on July 24, and fell 3-1 to East Haven on July 26. The team continued playoff action in the double-elimination tourney with a game at Bethel High against Wilton, scheduled for Friday, July 27, at 4:30 pm.
“Everybody gets along well and plays well together — great teamwork,” Eppers said.
The team was practically unbeatable during the regular slate.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Our one loss was a 14 inning game,” said Coach Andrew Guercio, referring to a 7-6 loss to Oakville on July 8. “It’s been a really fun season. The guys from Newtown and Bethel have gotten along great. They work hard in practice and in games — very fundamentally sound team.”
Guercio noted that the team has limited its errors in the field, which is keeping opposing team’s scoring down. The Bethel-based team outscored teams 178-42 during the regular slate. By comparison, second-place Oakville had the next-best runs for and against in the zone with 138 and 71.
“The coaching staff is really supportive. We’re not worried about making mistakes,” said Smith, adding that Guercio and Assistant Coach Shawn Platt work with players to correct things when necessary.
Another reason for minimizing opposing team production at the plate, naturally, is with strong pitching. Among the highlights this year was Vander Have’s no-hitter against Wolcott. Vander Have throws two types of fastballs and a curve and had them all working well in a 85-pitch effort as the Admirals beat Wolcott 3-0 on June 26.
“We have a lot of talent on our team based on the talent from both towns. It’s been enjoyable,” Vander Have said.
“It’s fun going to the ballpark knowing you’re going to win,” Melchionno noted.
Taylor is among the Legion players who bumps up an age level when there is an opening, and he says he benefits from playing up.
“For me, playing with guys who are older and more experienced than I am gives me a chance to learn and forces me to play my best. This helps me with the 17s because I can take what I learned and apply it to my game, making me a better day-to-day player,” Taylor said.
“Playing with the 17U team has made this one of my most fun summers of baseball. It’s a great group of guys, and we all are here with one goal, and that’s to play great baseball and win a state championship,” Taylor added.