HAMDEN — Hamden’s Tyler Osborne was the final, most convincing hero in a long string of them through an American Legion Baseball state tournament seventh- and eighth-round doubleheader Wednesday at Hamden High School, sending Hamden Post 88 to the tournament’s next phase at Meriden’s Ceppa Field this Saturday.
Osborne, a rising sophomore at Division II College of Saint Rose in Albany, hammered in three of Hamden’s second-game runs to finally send Washington home with its second loss, 4-1, in the tournament’s double elimination play-in phase.
The star third baseman’s two-run triple and solo moonshot homer were part of Hamden’s return to form after Washington (21-8) stunned Post 88 (23-7) with six seventh-inning runs in an 8-5 win in the first game.
Before that, Hamden sailed through two rounds undefeated, including a 6-2 win over Washington.
Wednesday, one win would punch Hamden’s ticket to Meriden, but Washington, Zone 5’s champions, came with a depleted team that wasn’t prepared to lie down.
Nevertheless, Hamden starter Brendan Kirck threw three no-hit innings after Hamden scored twice in the first inning.
“We’re sitting in the dugout saying, ‘We just can’t get no-hit or shut out,” said Washington leadoff hitter Austin Swanson.
Meanwhile, Washington’s C.J. Brito, making his first start of the summer, trucked on for four shutout innings of his own after the first.
“C.J.’s an athlete,” said Washington coach Mike Kersten. “Whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to do it well.”
Washington ended the no-hitter and the shutout with a run in the fourth, on a double by Tim Cianciolo and a pair of Hamden errors helped Joe Brunelli around the base paths after a walk.
They tied it in the top of the sixth on a single by Brito and another Hamden error, but Hamden took back the lead with a clutch sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Julian Vivenzio after walks to Osborne and Henry Bielin.
“With our seven, eight nine hitters coming up, I was ready to let the other kids play,” said Kersten.
But suddenly, Washington turned into murderers’ row, with six hits and an error, starting with Dom Perachi through doubles by Swanson, Brito, Cianciolo and Connor Gannon.
Two more Hamden runs just dented Washington’s 8-3 lead.
If the real Washington stood up in the first game, the real Hamden was ready for the second.
Chance Dutcher, another first-time starter, took the ball for Washington. Zach Hazan, part of the first-game Washington pounding got the call for Hamden.
“They’re the best team I’ve pitched against all year,” Hazan said. “They were hitting my fastball in the first game when I was just trying to get it over. In the second game, I had to really pitch.”
“I believe in what we do,” said Hamden coach Ray Guarino.
Belief paid off in the top of the third after two scoreless innings. Cullin Florio walked; Jake Pisano singled; Osborne batted them home with a two-run triple to the right field wall.
“I know how much this means to everyone — especially our coach,” said Osborne, who wears a T-shirt under his uniform, along with the rest of the team, inscribed, “Win it for Coach Ray.”
Guarino is battling multiple myelitis and his team battles it right alongside him.
A groundout by Bielen got Osborne home with Hamden’s third run. Osborne put it over the left center field fence in the top of the seventh for the fourth.
Washington put up a run in the fourth inning on hits by Ganon and Perachi and a sacrifice fly by Owen Hibbard, but Hamden was also ready to show its defense this game.
In the sixth inning, Washington’s Swanson hit a bomb to left field with Nick DiCandido on second. Hamden left fielder Florio crashed into the fence making the catch, got up as DiCandido tagged up for third, and made the throw through shortstop C.J. Kusellias to catch DiCandido at third.
“Our defense has been tremendous all year,” said Coach Guarino. “We don’t just want to win the game. We want to do much more. We want to develop the kids for bigger things.”
WASHINGTON 8, HAMDEN 5
At Hamden High School
Washington 000 101 6 — 8 8 2
Hamden 200 001 2 — 5 8 3
WP: C.J. Brito. LP: Mike Aceto. 2B: W — Austin Swanson; Brito; Tim Cianciolo; Connor Gannon. H — Jake Pisano.
Records: Washington 21-7; Hamden 22-7.
Hamden 4, Washington 1
At Hamden High School
Hamden 003 000 1 — 4 10 1
Washington 000 100 0 — 1 6 0
WP: Zach Hazan. LP: Chance Dutcher. HR: H — Tyler Osborne. 3B: H — Osborne. 2B: H — Henry Bielen; Ron Desroches.
Records: Hamden 23-7; Washington 21-8.