Jun. 11—Frank Mozzicato entered the 2021 season with one primary goal — leading the East Catholic High baseball team to its first state title since 1997.
After throwing two innings of scoreless relief to close out the Eagles' semifinal victory over Waterford, Mozzicato will have that opportunity on Saturday.
Mozzicato and the top-seeded Eagles will square off with No. 2 Northwestern in the Class M championship game at Palmer Field in Middletown. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
"Playing in the championship game is amazing," Mozzicato said. "Coach Fiori has done such a great job with this team, keeping us on track. We want to win it for him."
East Catholic is making its first championship game appearance since 2011, Jim Penders Sr.'s final season as coach. The Eagles have won four state titles (1975, 1983, 1996, and 1997).
"It's going to be a special game," said senior Hank Penders, Jim's grandson. "Hopefully we can bring the title home and do something that they haven't done here in a while. We've always been in the thick of it, but we haven't been able to pull it off for a while. Now we're one win away."
Northwestern is making its fourth championship game appearance. The Highlanders have yet to win a title.
Mozzicato, a senior left-hander from Ellington who is projected to be an early pick in the upcoming MLB draft, is expected to pitch the bulk of the game. But coach Martin Fiori has not ruled out using TJ Winn (1.08 ERA), the starter in Wednesday's semifinal, or Ethan Utermarck (0.88 ERA) as an "opener."
"Our problem is, Frankie strikes out so many guys, that it's hard for him to go seven innings," Fiori said. "We're honestly thinking about putting somebody else in there to get through the lineup one time, because we know we're probably going to have to throw more than one guy. We pulled TJ when he was at 66 pitches (Wednesday) because I wanted him available for Saturday."
Mozzicato is 8-0 with a 0.14 ERA and .616 WHIP this season. He enters the championship game with a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 42Î.
The senior has struck out 118 batters, allowed one earned run, and given up eight hits in 48Î innings.
Mozzicato pitched 30Ï innings from April 26 to May 5 without allowing a hit before Weston's Chris Amato snapped the streak with a single in the third inning of Saturday's second-round game.
"We're not going to change our approach," Northwestern co-coach Jim Davidson said. "It's worked all year, so why change now? Go up there and swing. Be aggressive."
Senior Bubba Risedorf is expected to get the start on the mound for Northwestern. The right-hander allowed two runs in a complete-game effort in the Highlanders' quarterfinal victory over Rockville on Saturday.
"We know Bubba is a competitor," Fiori said. "He throws hard and he likes to challenge you. So he'll be all fired up and ready to rock and roll. Nothing is going to faze him. We'll have to be ready."
Risedorf will face an East Catholic lineup featuring seven players hitting above .400.
Mozzicato leads the Eagles with a .462 average. Trevor Juan (.455), Alex Irizarry (.434), Michael Wearne (.433), Penders (.426), Ryan St. Jean (.406), and Ryan Shaw (.405) are also hitting above .400.
Irizarry leads the team with 26 RBIs. Mozzicato (24), Juan (22), Wearne (21), and Penders (20) all have at least 20 RBIs.
"They're a gritty, aggressive team," Fiori said. "It should be a very good game. We can't just show up and expect to win, because they're not going to be fazed by anyone we put on the mound or by our lineup. They're loose and confident."
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