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COVENTRY — When Ethan Hunt had surgery for a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder eight months ago, his biggest worry was about getting back to the level he was at before the injury.
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If his effort down the stretch of the season for the Coventry High baseball team is an indication, the Patriots’ junior is better than ever.
Hunt fired six innings of five-hit ball as fourth-seeded Coventry advanced to the CIAC Class S state tournament semifinals by defeating North Central Connecticut Conference rival and No. 21 Windsor Locks 6-0 at Coventry High Saturday.
“It’s been a long recovery and it’s been rough at times,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t throwing as hard as I once could. I didn’t make any excuses. I tried to compete every inning.
“Having the surgery was scary. I mean, I knew that I would be able to pitch again but I wasn’t sure that I would return to full strength. That scared me. But I went to work. I did rehab, physical therapy, all of that stuff. I did what I could to get back and here I am.”
The Patriots (18-6) are in the semifinals for the first time since winning the Class S crown in 2019. They will take on No. 8 Valley Regional Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Valley Regional advanced by ending the Class S reign of top-seeded St. Paul 4-3 in Bristol.
Coventry got there by beating Windsor Locks for the third time this season with Hunt earning the victory in all three games.
There’s no telling where Coventry would be without him.
“I didn’t even know at the beginning of the year if he was going to even pitch,” Coventry coach Ryan Giberson said. “He’s in the gym throwing 65 miles per hour while last year he was a low 80s guy. But his progress has been key.
“He’s become a pitcher out of necessity. He can’t just throw his hard stuff and get by. He mixes things up. He hits spots. He’s getting his fastball back and because he’s a long kid his fastball is deceptively fast. He’s confident, he competes, he has a great mound presence and our kids love playing behind him.”
Hunt fired blanks at the Raiders but did not have a 1-2-3 inning. Windsor Locks was 0-for-7 against him with runners in scoring position and stranded eight overall.
In the fifth and sixth innings, the Raiders put two runners on but Hunt escaped. When he fanned Jack Grasso — his seventh and final strikeout of the game — to get out of trouble in the sixth, he pumped his arms and let out a loud “Let’s go” to get him and his team energized.
“I love to compete in everything I do,” Hunt said. “No one will beat me mentally. No one will beat me physically. I’m going to be the hardest worker out there. And I’m going to show that by showing my emotions.”
Coventry gave Hunt a first-inning lead as Jacob Wojtkowski led off with a single, stole second, and scored on Gavin Covell’s single. Two batters later, Nate Cordner scored on Evan Menzel’s groundout to make it 2-0.
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The Patriots added an unearned run in the third and broke it open in the fifth. Menzel delivered a two-run double with the final run coming home on a double play.
Brandon White came on to get the final three outs in the seventh. In the cool and windy conditions, the Patriots played a solid game with strong pitching, aggressive offense, and solid defense.
“We’ve been good all year,” Giberson said. “We had one game at Granby we didn’t play well at all. But win or lose, we do play pretty well. We feel confident with everyone we put out there and we’ve played good baseball.”
Wojtkowski had two hits and scored twice for Coventry. Covell also had two hits with two runs scored while Menzel drove in three runs.
Windsor Locks had defeated No. 12 Litchfield and No. 28 Derby to get to Saturday’s showdown. Garrett Hinckley had two hits for the Raiders while catcher Xavier Angel played well defensively, including a tough play holding on to the ball when he collided with Cordner on a play that ended the third inning. Allen Hinckley pitched a complete game. He allowed seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
The Raiders finish 12-12.
The Coventry-Valley Regional winner Tuesday will play either third-seeded Haddam-Killingworth or No. 10 Lyman Memorial for the Class S crown June 9 or June 10 at Palmer Field in Middletown.
“I’ve heard Valley has two Division I guys and we have common opponents,” Giberson said. “We know they’re going to be really good. But we’ll show up and we’ll compete.”