HAMDEN >> Xavier senior Anthony Caramanica was an all-state linebacker for the Falcons football team this season. But his biggest hit of the year may have come on a baseball diamond in Hamden.
Powered by Caramanica’s bases loaded triple and senior Scott Marks’ sensational pitching performance, the No. 34 Falcons stunned the second-seeded Green Dragons, 5-3, in the first round of the Class LL state baseball tournament Tuesday at Rochford Field.
“That was fun,” Xavier coach Nick Cerreta said. “Caramanica just drove that ball. The bats are coming alive at the right time.”
Marks scattered five hits, walked two, and struck out six in a gutsy complete game effort.
“All I had to do was keep us in the game,” Marks said. “In the beginning my curve ball wasn’t too great so I had to just stick with my fastball. Towards the end my curve ball came back and that helped me tremendously. This is a huge win. We’re all excited.”
This was an historic season for Hamden, which won a school record 19 games and captured its first SCC Quinnipiac Division title. Green Dragons senior pitcher Ron Grant, who was selected the SCC Player of the Year, defeated the Falcons twice during the regular season, including a 1-0 17-strikeout masterpiece back on April 22.
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Grant took the mound against Xavier again on Tuesday. And the Falcons responded.
“I feel bad for our seniors,” said Hamden coach Chris Borelli, who was named the SCC Coach of the Year for the second straight season. “It’s baseball. I hate playing a team three times, especially when you win the first two and they’re both hard fought. I knew Xavier was a good club and they did what they needed to do to win today.”
Hamden took a 1-0 lead in the third when Avery Shugrue reached on an infield error, Kwadir Delgado-McIntyre hit a bunt single, and Trevor Brandi lined an RBI single to left.
This was shaping up to be a big inning for the Green Dragons. But after Mike Ferrett grounded out, the Falcons intentionally walked Andrew Kirschenbaum to load the bases. Marks then got Grant to fly out to left and Jovan Lomax on a grounder to second to end the threat.
“Scotty’s a bulldog,” Cerreta said. “He’s our ace. He’s just a gamer and has ice in his veins. He just bore down there with the bases loaded. I never worry when he is out there. He makes pitches when he has too.”
Caramanica’s three-run triple sparked the Falcons in the top of the fourth and Xavier carried that momentum the rest of the way. The Falcons’ big inning was set up when Grant walked Matt Kyle and Austin Fortier. Senior Anthony Franco laced a one-out single to center to load the bases for Caramanica, who blasted a Grant offering to deep right center.
“The last time (Grant) jammed me so I was hoping I’d get something on the outside and I took it that way,” said Caramanica, who had a pair of doubles in the Falcons’ 14-2 play-in win over McMahon on Saturday. “A 34 seed beating a two seed … that’s crazy.”
Sophomore Luke Garofalo’s RBI ground out scored Caramanica and Xavier led, 4-1.
The Falcons (10-12) added another run in the sixth. Franco (2-for-3) led off with a double, moved to third on Garofalo’s single to left, and scored on a perfect squeeze bunt by Bill Egan.
Hamden (19-4) rallied for two runs in the seventh and got the tying run to the plate on a walk, an infield error and singles from Delgado-McIntyre and Brandi. But Kirschenbaum bounced one back to Marks for the final out.
“Marks did a good job mixing pitches,” Borelli said. “He pounded the strike zone. We hadn’t seen him all year. We just couldn’t put anything together offensively. There’s no room for mistakes when you want to win championships.”
Grant allowed six hits, walked three and struck out three.
“It was our third time seeing him so we told our kids to be confident,” Cerreta added. “We told them that had to be an advantage for us. Even with an all-state pitcher like him. I’m so proud of the kids.”
Xavier 5, Hamden 3
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) May 31, 2016
Xavier: 000 401 0 — 5 6 3
Hamden: 001 000 2 — 3 5 3
(at Rochford Field, Hamden)
Batteries: Xavier — Scott Marks (W) and Josh Cyr; Hamden — Ron Grant (L) and Brian Hawes.
2B: Xavier — Anthony Franco. 3B: Xavier – Anthony Caramanica.
RBI: Xavier — Anthony Caramanica (3), Luke Garofalo, Bill Egan. Hamden – Trevor Brandi, Mike Ferrett.
SB: Xavier — Bill Egan. Hamden – Kwadir Delgado-McIntyre 2, Avery Shugrue.
CS: Xavier — Jake Alonzo (by Grant).
Team records: Xavier 10-12; Hamden 19-4.