Westport Legion falls to Trumbull in state playoffs

With both the lead and the strike zone shrinking, Trumbull American Legion manager Brett Conner desperately needed a pitcher that could come in and close out a win to get his team’s summer alive.

Zone 4 rival Westport had loaded the bases with no outs trailing 4-2 and the heart of the order at the plate. But Trumbull’s Pete Rousso walked in from the bullpen, quickly got three straight outs and helped Trumbull advance to the state regionals with a 4-3 win on Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve coached (Rousso) since he was 10 years old,” Conner said. “He’s just a loyal kid, knows what’s expected and when you get guys like that … it was a big spot for him and he did a tremendous job.”

Trumbull (21-8) will face Zone 4 regular season champion Stamford (24-3) in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday at Cubeta Stadium.

“At the beginning of the year these guys weren’t understanding the expectations of Trumbull American Legion Baseball,” said Conner of his team. “Our leaders rallied these guys and I’m very happy for them.”

Trailing 4-1 heading into the ninth, Westport got a bunt single from Zack Azadian and three straight walks to keep the rally alive. With two outs and the score 4-3, Sean Clark sliced a ball that missed dropping into fair territory for a game-tying hit by inches, and grounded out two pitches later.

Trumbull tacked on two runs in the bottom of the eighth to extend a 2-1 lead. The first came on a balk during a botched intentional walk with a runner on the third base, before Chris O’Brien rippled a single down the left field line for an insurance run that would prove to be the game-winner.

“Those were big insurance runs and I thought they’d be enough,” Conner said. “Obviously it was enough but having guys on base with no outs and we’re not throwing strikes. Thankfully (Rousso) was able to handle the situation.”

Trumbull starter Frank Puglia went six-and-two-thirds innings, struck out five batters and allowed just one hit.

“He pitched a tremendous game,” Conner said. “He was lights out; he’s a bulldog. You give him the ball and you know he’s going to give everything he has.”

Westport drew 10 walks and left the bases loaded in both the seventh and eighth innings.

“We were patient at the plate,” Westport manager Jeff Love said. “They worked, and got (Puglia) out of there after six innings because we made him work. We didn’t get the hits we wanted but we drew a lot of walks.”

Westport, which got strong pitching from a number of younger players throughout the summer, had its season come to a close at 15-14. Due to rescheduling, Westport had to play 17 games in 14 days to close the season. Westport defeated Stratford 5-4 in the first round of states Saturday.

“Our kids battled all day,” Love said. “It was very close and that was baseball. Can’t be upset; I’m so proud of these kids and we went farther than we expected to.”