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7th Inning Rally Leads Hall to Mayor’s Cup Win Over Conard

Hall players pose at home plate at Dunkin Donuts Park with the Mayor's Cup. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor's Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

It was a home game for Conard, hosting crosstown West Hartford rival Hall at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.

Hall starting pitcher Joe Dooley heads to third. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

Closing out its regular season, the Hall  and Conard baseball teams had a chance to try and build some momentum heading into the state tournament. For the first five innings Tuesday, it looked like it would be the Chieftains getting the upper hand at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, but a late rally by the Warriors capped off a big 4-2 win over their crosstown rival.

Conard starting pitcher Nick Kane and Hall hurler Joe Dooley both had some quick innings, and some innings where they both got in trouble. Dooley was able to overcome a rough second inning and limit the damage to a pair of runs. Kane had been mowing down Hall batters, hitting 90 mph with his pitches, but it all fell apart in the sixth.

Conard pitcher Nick Kane struck out eight batters. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Things started off strong for Kane at the plate when he nearly left the park with a long opposite field fly to right that hit high off the wall for a double to open the bottom of the second. After Dooley got two strikeouts and looked like he might get out of the inning, Tristan Baron singled to center for the RBI.

Conard’s Nick Kane had a long double off the right field wall in the second inning. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

After John Kane walked, Dooley got Brendan Grady to ground to second, but a wide throw to first allowed a second run to score before the inning ended. “I thought he (Dooley) did a great job of settling down and minimizing that inning,” said Hall head coach Nick Marsh.

Kane then struck out the side in the top of the third with final pitches clocked at 87, 85, and a 90-mph heater in the inning. Dooley responded with an opening strikeout, then Kane singled, Dooley got another strikeout and then picked Kane off first to end the inning.

Hall’s Tommy LaSpada got the Warriors’ first base hit. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall’s offense scratched out its first score in the top of the fourth. After two quick outs, Alex Ciafone reached on an infield error, and stole second. Catcher Tommy LaSpada followed with an RBI single before Kane got the final out on a strikeout. “I just missed the pitch before, ” said La Spada. “I shortened up my swing and got the barrel on it. [Kane] is a really good pitcher.”

Hall’s Alex Ciafone beats the pick-off tag from Nick Kane at first. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

The score would stay  2-1 until the sixth inning. Kane walked the first two batters he faced and then got a nice running catch by the right fielder in the gap. He then hit Ciafone to load the bases – and that was enough for coach Brendan Smith as he went to the bullpen and called in senior lefty Lucas Chmela.

Chmela would get a strikeout before throwing a wild pitch that allowed Cole Kocienda to race home, and his head first slide was enough to beat the throw from catcher Jake Samela to tie the game. Chmela would then strike out the final Hall batter of the inning, with the game was now tied at 2.

Hall’s Cole Kocienda is safe at home under the tag of Conard pitcher Lucas Chmela. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Smith won an extended duel with Dooley when he hit a long double to right, but was stranded at second. With both sides looking at the possibility of extra innings, Conard brought in Griffin Paulus to pitch. He got the first two Hall players on a fly to right and a strikeout before the wheels came off.

Brian Chelli walked and Kocienda hit a dying liner to left that fell under the glove of a diving Baron. Before Conard could retrieve the ball, Chelli had raced home with the go-ahead run. After another walk, Tucker Redden doubled to left center to make it a 4-2 lead.

Right fielder Tucker Redden makes the catch for Hall. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“Cole [Kocienda] has been a bright spot all year,” said Marsh. “Since we moved him up to leadoff, he has stepped up for us.”

Hall’s Marsh went to the pen in the bottom of the seventh and brought in junior Quinn LaRock to try and get the final three outs. LaRock fanned the first two batters he faced before giving up a single up the middle to Michael Weiss.

Peter Langevin came to the plate as the tying run, but LaRock managed to strike him out looking – and Hall had won the game and the Mayor’s Cup.

Hall players raise the Mayor’s Cup trophy after the win over Conard. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“This team is special,” said captain and catcher LaSpada. “Even when we are down we don’t give up.”

Despite playing in what is arguably the best pro ballpark in AA, neither side showed any nerves or sense of being intimidated by the surroundings. The win gives Hall a season sweep off their crosstown rival Conard in what is most likely the last season for each team to play under their nicknames of Warriors and Chieftains.

Dooley, who struck out 10 batters, was named the games MVP. He has a strong connection to Dunkin’ Donuts Park as his father, Jeff Dooley, is the play-by-play voice of the Hartford Yard Goats. “We’ve played here six times now, I just tried to be calm,” said the MVP.

Giving Dooley the start in the game was a no-brainer according to his coach. “He’s been our ace all year,” said Marsh. “He was more consistent today and made great pitches when we needed them.”

Hall finished the regular season at 13-7 and will play a scrimmage Windsor on Friday ahead of the start of the state tournament. Seedings and game times will be announced later this week. Conard, now 12-7, plays at Middletown Thursday to close out the regular season before playing in the CIAC Tournament.

Conard’s Nick Kane scores the game’s first run against Hall. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Will Gaumer and Hall coach Nick Marsh. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Nick Kane and Conard coach Brendan Smith. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall players sretch before the game. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Conard players getting ready. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Alex Ciafone would reach on an error in the fourth inning. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Catcher Jake Samela squeezes the strike. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Left fielder Tristan Baron hits the turf after an attempted catch on a dying liner. Conard vs. Hall baseball Mayor’s Cup game. May 24, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall catcher Tommy LaSpada and Conard’s Peter Langevin react to the game-ending third strike.

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