GREENWICH — Never have so many wished so hard for the chance to commute to Middletown.
The Greenwich Cannons Senior American Legion baseball team advanced to the 2017 State Tournament Super Regional Final 8 Wednesday by defeating Middletown Post 75, 2-1 at the Greenwich High School baseball field.
Wednesday’s victory combined with Tuesday’s 8-1 triumph over Middletown allowed Greenwich to capture the best two-out-of-three series.
“We had been close the past two seasons. But we got tripped up in Game 3 of the best-of-3 series both times,” Greenwich manager Mike Abate said. “It’s great to get over that hump this year. And it was nice to do it with two straight wins. I believe the experience of those seasons of getting close allowed us to play with confidence and poise this year.”
Zone 4 champion Greenwich will be joined in the Southern half of the Senior Legion Final 8 state bracket (double elimination) by Stamford, Cheshire and Trumbull. Greenwich’s first contest at Palmer Field in Middletown will be Saturday with another game likely on Sunday.
Greenwich earned its milestone victory Wednesday in dramatic fashion. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, home team Middletown had the bases loaded with one out.
With the infield drawn [i] <FZ,1,0,42> in, Greenwich righty reliever Aaron Schur (2 2/3 innings of scoreless work) induced a grounder to shortstop Colin Kelly, who started an inning-ending 6-2-3 double play.
In the top of the ninth, Greenwich fashioned the winning run with two outs and none on against Middletown reliever Dan Botti. Middletown starter Luke Garofalo limited the Cannons to five hits with 11 strikeouts and three walks over eight innings.
Schur singled to center and Mark Sunoo walked. No. 9 hitter Ryan King delivered the RBI single to right for 2-1 to start the dreams of Palmer Field.
“I was happy to be at the plate in a big spot. I was also glad to see the Middletown starter (Garafalo) leave,” King said. “I was looking for a fastball. I got one a little outside that I could drive the other way to right field.”
But Zone 3 champion Middletown Post 75 — which left nine men on base in all — had one last rally in the bottom of the ninth.
With one out, Jack Higgs singled to right. And after a long at-bat, lefty pinch-hitter Keith LaChance hit a dribbler between the mound and third base for an infield single.
Greenwich manager Abate had no interest in going to a third game three years in a row.
He brought in potential third game starter Connor Langan. The righthander brought heavy heat to strike out Ryan Farmiglietti and leadoff man Cal Pitruzzello to send the roasted crowd scurrying to air conditioning.
“Langan had closed out some other games for us along the way this season,” Abate said. “He wanted the ball in this situation. And I wanted the win now.”
Greenwich’s solid pitching — lefty starter Anthony Ferraro Jr. went 5 2/3 innings (two hits, five strikeouts) — was aided by fine defense.
“My plan was to throw first pitch strikes and let the defense do the work,” Ferraro Jr. said. “Our defense lets our pitchers be very confident on the mound. We know people will make the plays.”
END OF THE ROAD FOR MIDDLETOWN
Middletown Post 75 had ousted Norwalk and Monroe in the single-elimination phase of the state bracket.
Middletown’s lone run Wednesday came on Garofalo’s RBI double to right-center in the sixth.
“We hit line drives at people all day long. We had numerous chances to score,” said Middletown manager Tim D’Aquila. “Greenwich’s defense made the plays. What can you do? Both sides were good teams but someone has to lose.”