GLASTONBURY>> Joseph Mercier of Glastonbury laid down two of the most important bunts of his life on Monday.
One led to the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, the other won the game in the bottom of the ninth.
A safety squeeze with John Rosadino on third is how No. 8 Glastonbury came back to defeat No. 25 Wilton, 6-5, in the first round of the Class LL tournament at Riverfront Park.
“He struggled a little bit defensively,” Glastonbury coach Eric Frank said. “But he didn’t put his head down. We tell our guys that there’s always going to be another opportunity to help us be successful. He knows that and that’s why he’s able to get the bunt down.”
The Tomahawks trailed by four runs after half an inning and the first 10 batters didn’t reach base. But they kept battling.
Glastonbury starter John Russell settled down by retiring the next eight in a row and not allowing another run until the seventh inning.
“He’s one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached in my life,” Frank said. “Most kids would break down in a situation where they get four runs in the first inning, not Johnny Russell. That’s the guy you want on the mound, that’s the guy that’s going to settle down. The game doesn’t speed up for him, he’s going to battle to the end and glad he’s on our team.”
Russell helped out his own cause in the fourth.
The senior broke up Wilton starter J.T. Morin’s perfect game with a single up the middle in the fourth and advanced to second on a passed ball. Ben Woodard drove him in with a single to right.
“We’re up 4-0 and they’re quiet,” Wilton coach Tim Eagen said. “There was nothing that they were doing and it’s on a passed ball by the catcher that basically woke them up. That runner would have been on third with two outs and we would have been out of the inning.”
Glastonbury third baseman Ian Halpin led off the fifth with the only extra-base hit of the game, a double over the head of James Meany in left. That hit, Eagen said, really hurt the Warriors.
With two out, Glastonbury hit four consecutive singles and tied the game at 4-4.
Wilton took a 5-4 lead in the seventh when Brett Phillips scored on an error by Andrew Takahashi after being hit by a pitch.
Glastonbury manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh to send it to extras.
Mercier sacrificed Ryan Bagdasarian to second, who then advanced to third on a ground out. Russell drove Bagdasarian in with a single to left.
“Give them credit,” Eagen said “They had two out and a runner and got a big hit.”
Wilton threatened with runners on second in both the eighth and ninth innings, but couldn’t push a run across against the tiring Russell. That leaft the door open for Mercier to execute another bunt and win the game in the ninth.
“I sent my pitching coach out there and I knew,” Eagen said. “I said “their going to try to squeeze. If he squares, don’t throw a pitch right down the middle of the plate.” He [Morin] threw it right down the middle of the plate.”
No. 8 Glastonbury will host No. 9 Cheshire on Tuesday at 3:30 as the Rams defeated No. 24 Ridgefield, 12-5.
Wilton: 400 000 100 — 5 8 0
Glastonbury: 000 130 101 — 6 9 2
WP: Matthew Del Masto; LP: J.T. Morin
RBI: W-Sabo (2), Ward (2); G-Russell (2), Takahashi, Mandell, Woodard.
SB: W-Sorbo; G-Russell (2), Mandell.
Records: Wilton 10-11; Glastonbury 15-6.