Chris Piccirillo, Sports Editor • Contact Reporter
Published May 23, 2018 • Last Updated 12:52 am, May 25, 2018
Bob DeMayo loves teaching kids how to become better baseball players while fielding a fundamentally sound squad that puts pressure on the opposition. DeMayo loves it so much that he’s spent the past 60 years doing that as the head coach of the baseball team at North Haven High School.
DeMayo has achieved numerous milestones throughout that time, including the five state championships the Indians have won with him as their skipper. On May 23, Coach DeMayo put another major milestone in the books as he recorded his 900th career victory when North Haven posted a 7-6 home win over Amity in the quarterfinals of the SCC Tournament.
North Haven broke open a 2-2 game by scoring five runs in the fourth inning and then held off a spirited Amity comeback to give DeMayo win No. 900. Later that evening, the Indians hosted North Branford for their regular-season finale on Senior Night and prevailed 7-0 for DeMayo’s 901st victory, while improving to 17-4 on the year.
Coach DeMayo appreciates the significance of reaching 900 wins, but he was even happier that North Haven played a great game to defeat three-time defending SCC champion Amity. “Everybody thinks that’s quite a milestone and, I guess if you focus on it, it probably is. But I put in a lot of years getting there and enjoyed every one of them. So that’s one of the themes I try to get across to the kids. I just want to coach kids and win some baseball games and go from there,” said DeMayo. “It means something to get it against Amity, because they have such a great team, and we’ve had such a tremendous rivalry. And to do it in the way did it was super.” The Indians’ win versus Amity resembled many of the ones that came before it during DeMayo’s tenure: Every athlete played his heart out and played smart to help North Haven come away with a narrow victory in a high-stakes game. Starting pitcher Luca Lawrence got the win to improve to 8-0 after pitching four innings. Fellow senior Zach Pincince came on in relief and worked his way out of several jams--including a two-on, nobody-out scenario in the seventh--to pick up the save, ultimately allowing one run in three innings. At the plate, senior Steven Erbe went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored, and three RBI for North Haven. Junior Matt Solomon was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored to pace the Indians’ pesky offense. “We get runners in scoring position, we like to bunt, we like to hit-and-run, we like to run the butcher boy, and, along those lines, whatever we did seemed to work against Amity. We put pressure on and, when you put pressure on, you score runs, and that’s North Haven baseball,” DeMayo said. “We stayed ahead, kept the pressure on, and scored runs, and that’s how we play. That’s the philosophy of the system. Then we had pretty good pitching, which is also what you need when you have all that other stuff.” Coach DeMayo said it means a lot that his athletes rallied together because they were determined to get him 900 wins. The Indians needed to win 16 games for that to happen this year. They played well from the start and then went on a late eight-game win streak to put themselves in position. Soon, the media was buzzing and North Haven’s players were arranging cups in the fence to signify DeMayo’s increasing win total. A few rainouts and a 3-2 loss to Xavier on May 21 only ramped up the anticipation. Two days later, the stage was once again set for No. 900 when North Haven hosted Amity in the SCC Tournament quarterfinals. The wait came to an end on this sunny afternoon as the Indians won a one-run decision at DeMayo Ballfield to hit the magic number and also advance to face Fairfield Prep in the SCC semis. North Haven took an early lead versus the Spartans. Solomon and senior Peyton Farina both singled and then scored on singles by Erbe and fellow senior Kevin Lucey, respectively, to put North Haven up 2-0. Amity (15-6) came back to tie the game by plating a pair of runs against Lawrence in the third. The Indians broke out the bats by pushing five runs across in the fourth inning for a 7-2 advantage. Senior Nick Perillie singled, junior Hunter Garthwait walked, and both scored on a base hit from senior Andrew Laudano to put North Haven ahead 4-2. Erbe followed by hitting a double that scored Solomon and Laudano for a 6-2 lead. Sophomore Dave Christoforo then singled home Erbe to make it 7-2. Amity answered by scoring three times in the fifth to cut it to 7-5. After the first three batters reached, DeMayo took out Lawrence for Pincince, who gave up a three-run double to make it 7-5. However, Pincince retired the next three batters to get out of the inning. In the sixth, he allowed three straight runners to reach with two outs, but then struck out the next batter to escape another jam. With the Spartans down to their last chance, they used and a hit a walk to put their first two men on in the top of the seventh. Once again, Pincince pitched his way out of trouble by getting a fielder’s choice groundout, a flyout to center field, and then a groundout to third base to end the game and secure Coach DeMayo’s 900th victory. “There were situations where Amity needed one hit to really get back in the game, and Zach and the defense didn’t let it happen,” DeMayo said. “It was a nail-biter all the way.” Former North Haven baseball players from around the country came back to their hometown to watch Coach DeMayo make history. DeMayo said the outpouring of kind words and warm feelings he’s received while nearing his 900th win resonate deeply. “It’s hard to put into words what the connection is, but it seems that these kids really enjoyed playing North Haven baseball, and they were here for me. I mean, some of them aren’t kids anymore—they’re in their 60s or whatever—but they just appreciated what went on,” he said. “It touched me—all the emails, the letters, the people coming down and talking to me before the game. To think that I did something to help them, that really touched me.” DeMayo also had nothing but positive things to say about his current collection of ballplayers who not only etched No. 900 in cement, but also have their sights set on taking final step in this year’s Class L State Tournament. “They are the typical North Haven, blue-collar kids. They are gutsy kids. They want to play, they have goals, they want to get back to final like last year and win it all,” said DeMayo. “They come ready to tuck their shirts in and go to work, and that is the kind of kid I love to coach.” Special Senior Night Right after defeating Amity, North Haven was back on the field to face North Branford for its last game of the regular season. North Haven got five innings of one-hit shutout ball from senior Nate Zalegowski and posted a 7-0 Senior Night triumph versus the Thunderbirds. North Haven scored two runs in the first inning, two in the third, and three in sixth. Erbe went 2-for-4 with a run, two RBI, and a stolen base; Farina doubled, walked twice, scored a run, and drove home two; and senior Christian Somma had a single with two walks, two runs scored, and a stolen base for North Haven. Lucey hit an RBI single, Lawrence had a two-run single, senior Mike Salzano singled and scored a run, Pincince singled and stole a base, and junior Danny Cannavaciolo singled, stole a base, and scored a run. Juniors Ben Sbabo and John Gontarek pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, respectively. Almost Earlier in the week, the Indians came close to getting Coach DeMayo his 900th win when they hosted SCC Quinnipiac Division opponent Xavier on May 21, although the Falcons came away with a 3-2 victory. With the loss, North Haven finished at 4-2 in the SCC Quinnipiac Division and shared the title with Branford, marking the Indians’ second straight division crown. Xavier scored two runs in the top of the first, North Haven came back with two runs in the bottom half, and the game remained tied 2-2 through six innings. Xavier scored a run in the top of the seventh on a two-out double to take a 3-2 lead and then hung on for the win. Christoforo hit a two-run single that brought home Laudano and Erbe to account for the Indians’ two runs. Farina had a single with a walk and a stolen base. Zalegowski started and allowed the two runs (1 earned) in the opening inning. Pincince came in for relief and threw 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. Fellow senior Chris Ciarleglio threw the next three innings, giving up the go-ahead run in the seventh on the only hit he allowed. Lawrence retired the final batter of the game for the Indians. From the Sidelines Bob DeMayo earned his 800th win as the head coach of the North Haven baseball team when the Indians defeated Xavier by a 6-5 final in 12 innings on May 2, 2011. In that game, Kevin Erbe drew a walk-off walk that scored Devin Kresge to win it for North Haven. Kevin Erbe’s brother, Steven Erbe, is a senior on this year’s team. North Haven has won five state championships during Bob DeMayo’s 60-season tenure as head coach. The Indians blanked New Britain 1-0 in the Class LL final in 1975, earned a 7-6 win against Andrew Warde in the 1982 Class LL final, defeated Newtown 4-0 in 1985 to win the Class L crown, shut out Seymour 10-0 in 2003 in the Class L final (which also marked DeMayo’s 700th win), and edged East Lyme 3-2 to win the Class L title in 2015. The Indians have also been to two other state finals with DeMayo, taking a 7-6, nine-inning loss against RHAM in the Class L final in 2004 and losing an 8-2 contest to Foran in the 2017 Class L final.
Bob DeMayo’s 901 career wins are the most for any coach in the history of Connecticut high-school baseball. With 60 seasons under his belt, DeMayo has also been a head coach longer than anyone who has ever coached high-school baseball in the United States.