WASHINGTON DEPOT — Washington’s Austin Swanson put an end to a day of teases, if not outright frustration, with a line drive to right center field that brought C.J. Brito racing in for a 4-3 walk-off win over Greenwich in the bottom of the seventh inning at Ted Alex Field Tuesday evening.
The third-round Senior American Legion State Baseball Tournament game followed a steaming-hot first two rounds, producing 1-1 records for both teams in the double-elimination tournament.
So, in this knockout game, while undefeated Hamden waited for the winner today, weather was the first tease, dropping 20 degrees with just enough rain to make playability uncertain.
Washington’s Ted Alex Field passed the weather test while Swanson endured his own personal frustration with a lost set of car keys at work.
“I got here late, so coach told me he’d try to put me in at the right spot,” said Swanson, Washington’s leadoff hitter over the weekend.
That spot looked a long way off after Greenwich (15-11) started the game with three runs in the top of the first inning, on hits by Sean Pratley (run scored); Harrison Feinberg (2-for-4, double, triple, RBI, run); Ian Colalucci (RBI, run) and a Washington error.
But the bottom of the inning locked Greenwich into the frustration game along with Washington (20-7).
The Zone 5 champions answered Greenwich with two runs on a leadoff hit by Connor Gannon (4-for-4, 2 runs, double); two walks and a Greenwich error, then evened the score in the third inning with a leadoff hit by Gannon and an RBI single from Joe Brunelli.
Meanwhile, Washington pitcher Zach Prahach recovered from the rocky start, zipping through the next three innings with just one more Greenwich hit along with five strikeouts before nearing his Legion pitch limit at the end of the fourth.
Greenwich complete-game pitcher Alex Roath sailed past the third with the help of the Cannons’ second double play, then stranded Washington chances in the fifth and sixth innings on a leadoff double by Gannon in the fifth and Tim Cianciolo’s efforts in the sixth when a single, sacrifice and steal got him to third.
Still, Washington’s frustrations in the 3-3 struggle paled in comparison with the teases for Greenwich.
Washington reliever Gannon took the mound in the fifth. Feinberg blasted a one-out triple to the right center field fence, then licked his chops while Hunter Gruenstrass drew a walk only to wither as Washington pulled out a 6-4-3 double play to leave him rooted on third.
The next inning seemed even worse for the Cannons. With two outs in the sixth, Ben Nash hammered a double, then took off for home as Miles Langhorne lofted a long hit to deep center field.
Washington’s Chance Dutcher threw on a line to the plate, nailing Nash by three feet.
With so many lives, Washington seemed certain to live with destiny — or die from it. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Gannon smacked his fourth straight hit, then lost a stealing race to second on a throw from catcher Gruenstrass.
C.J. Brito and Brunelli walked.
At last, Coach Mike Kersten had the right spot for Swanson, sending him up to pinch hit.
Swanson’s line drive to right center field brought Brito home to a dancing Washington team.
“He put the bat on the ball,” Kersten said.
“Both sides played well. Both sides had opportunities. They cashed theirs in,” Greenwich coach Mike Abate said. “It was baseball the way it should be played.”
Now Washington faces its biggest challenge yet. Kersten pressed hard for commitments from 11 team members for today’s possible doubleheader at Hamden High School, thanks to work and other commitments in the dwindling head count.
After losing to Hamden 6-2 Sunday, Washington must win twice today to move on to the tournament’s next phase, beginning Saturday. The do-or-die first game begins at 1 p.m. If Washington wins, the second game follows shortly after.