NORWICH, Conn. (August 13, 2023) — The Norwich Sea Unicorns’ first postseason voyage in the Futures League was a successful one.
After clinching its first-ever regular-season title and playoff berth last week, top-seeded Norwich earned the right to host Sunday night’s first-ever winner-take-all championship game in Futures League history and edged out the second-seeded Vermont Lake Monsters 2-1 in a thrilling game at Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium.
Norwich, which boasted the top offense and pitching staff in the league during the regular season, scored once in the third and fifth innings while holding the visitors off the scoreboard after the second and to just six hits in total to claim the win against a Vermont franchise that has now made three consecutive championship appearances since joining the league in 2021.
In the ultimate contest, shortstop Zach Donahue (Eastern Connecticut State) had both of Norwich’s RBI while second baseman Johnny Knox (Nichols) went 2-for-3 and scored the go-ahead run to earn Postseason Most Valuable Player honors.
Joseph Castrichini (Stonehill) was a two-inning opener on the mound for Norwich before three relievers combined to allow just four base hits over seven scoreless innings to wrap up the championship victory. Mark Capell (Yale) tossed 3.1 frames to earn his second win of the playoffs, Chris Jenkins (Endicott) escaped a two-on jam in the sixth, and Daniel Cohen (Yale) finished the job allowing just one hit and striking out three over the final three.
Adding in their three-game semifinal series victory over in-state rival New Britain, the Sea Unicorns’ pitching staff allowed just eight runs, 18 hits and held opponents to a .154 average across their four total postseason games.
Knox, who played for Norwich before joining the eventual champion Nashua Silver Knights during the summer of 2022, was a league-best .533 hitter (8-for-15) with two home runs, four RBI, four runs scored, two walks and 16 total bases during a playoff run that resulted in his second straight Futures League title. Knox is the fourth Postseason Most Valuable Player in as many years to come from a Division 3 program.
The final game saw Vermont play with a 1-0 lead as catcher Jacob Gaudreau (Bryant) drew a one-out walk, advanced on first baseman Antonio Perrotta’s (Virginia) comebacker to the pitcher’s mound and scored on shortstop Kyle Lodise’s (Augusta) two-out double into the left-center field gap in the top of the second.
After Capell worked his first of consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the third, the Sea Unicorns knotted the score when center fielder Ray Leonzi (Eastern Connecticut State) scored on Donahue’s fielder’s choice grounder after going first-to-third on a Knox single to left.
It was an unearned run that put Norwich ahead to stay in the fifth. Vermont reliever Ethan Mishra (Tulane) struck out the first two batters of the inning before Knox reached on a two-base fielding error and crossed the plate when Donahue lined an RBI single into right.
Vermont looked to put together an immediate response after back-to-back singles by third baseman Jack Winnay (Wake Forest) and designated hitter Colby Brouillette (Central Connecticut State) came with one out in the sixth. Jenkins relieved Capell and induced a shallow fly ball and a grounder to end the threat.
The Monsters also left runners aboard in the seventh and eighth thanks to a Lodise walk and Winnay single, respectively. Cohen made quick work in the final inning, capping a 1-2-3 inning with a swinging strikeout of Loside to commence the celebration.
Winnay (3-for-4) and Lodise (2-for-3, RBI) recorded five of Vermont’s six hits.
Mishra struck out three while allowing one unearned run on three hits in two innings following Vermont starter Thomas Santana (Columbia). The duo of Wyatt Cameron (Central Connecticut State) and Sean Gamble (Minnesota State) kept it a one-run game, teaming up for three straight scoreless innings.
The playoff schedule and results is as follows:
No. 1 Norwich Sea Unicorns (39-22) vs. No. 4 New Britain Bees (35-28)
Tuesday, August 8: at Norwich 3, New Britain 2
Wednesday, August 9: at New Britain 3, Norwich 2
Friday, August 11: at New Britain 12, Norwich 2
—Norwich wins series, 2-1—
No. 2 Vermont Lake Monsters (38-23) vs. No. 3 Worcester Bravehearts (39-24)
Wednesday, August 9: at Vermont 7, Worcester 2
Friday, August 11: at Worcester 7, Vermont 5
Saturday, August 12: at Vermont 6, Worcester 1
—Vermont wins series, 2-1—
No. 1 Norwich Sea Unicorns vs. No. 2 Vermont Lake Monsters
Sunday, August 13: at Norwich 2, Vermont 1
—Norwich wins 2023 Futures League Championship—
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