Greenwich tied the score against Staples in the bottom of the seventh inning with a safety squeeze, so with the score knotted in the bottom of the 11th inning, what did the Cardinals do? They executed another safety squeeze, of course.
In a 4 hour, 20-minute baseball game that saw the lead change hands several times and the teams combine to leave 35 runners on base, Greenwich edged formidable Staples, 7-6, courtesy of a safety squeeze, executed perfectly by senior Jack Zola.
Zola batted with the bases loaded and one out in the 11th inning and the score tied at 6-6. But before facing Staples pitcher Quinn Jumper, Zola received some instructions from Cardinals coach Adrian Arango.
“He (Arango) called me over and told me he would give me one strike,” Zola said. “I tried to get the bunt down the first base line. I was having a tough day at the plate, chasing a lot of outside curve balls and high fastballs. So I was 0 for 4 with two walks going up to that at-bat. I took a strike and was fortunate to lay one down. It felt very good to get the win, especially after 11 innings like that.”
The Cardinals (9-2) and Wreckers (10-3) combined to use 11 pitchers in the marathon-type matchup.
“We didn’t expect anything less, when you are playing a team of that caliber – we expected a battle and that’s exactly what we had,” Arango said. “Even when we had a lead in the seventh inning, you think you’re in a good spot, but they come back to take the lead. Either team that lost today didn’t deserve to lose.”
Trailing 6-5 in the 11th inning, the Cardinals tied the score on senior Miles Langhorne’s run-scoring single to center field off Staples right-hander Alex Oppenheimer James Babb, a center fielder, began the 11th inning with a walk and right fielder Ryan Perez singled to center field, setting the stage for Langhorne.
“I knew I needed to put the ball in play, do my job and get the runner in from third and work up the middle,” said Langhorne, who went 3 for 6. “I knew I had to get that tying run in to pass the baton, on to the boys who could drive in the winning run.”
After Langhorne’s single, Jumper relieved Oppenheimer on the mound.
“That was amazing the way we battled back at the end of the game,” Langhorne said. “Giving up some runs in the seventh, a lot of teams may have folded, but we came back and competed for 11 innings.”
After both squads couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities for several innings, the Wreckers took a 6-5 lead in the top of the 11th inning. Cutter Frost singled, Owen Ziegler walked and junior leadoff hitter/center fielder John Fitzgerald delivered an RBI single off Greenwich right-hander Michael Rose, giving Staples a 6-5 lead. Rose, a senior, pitched 1 1/3 innings of solid relief to earn the win.
“I was pitching with the bases loaded, so my goal was to throw strikes and get my team into the next inning,” Rose said. “We were all encouraging each other, it’s a next man up team and we needed a lot of guys today to get the job done.”
Senior right-hander John McGrath pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the Cards, while teammate Nathan Jones, a sophomore, pitched 1 1/3 innings. Carson Bylciw, a left-hander, allowed only one run on two hits in five innings. He registered nine strikeouts.
“I wanted to just throw strikes keep us in the game and try not to let anyone score,” McGrath said. “Everyone pitched great, starting with Carson and then Nathan and then me and Rose. Every single pitcher hit their spots and kept us in this game.”
Added Arango: “Carson went five innings and had a lot of strikeouts. McGrath bridging that gap was key and Nathan and Rose have been so good and reliable for us.”
Matthew Spada started the game for Staples, allowing one run in two plus innings. Christopher Kennedy pitched two-plus scoreless innings, before giving way to Alexander Deutsch, who yielded two runs in two innings. Justin Lessing, Adam Banks and Oppenheimer also pitched for Staples, which took a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh inning.
Finn Popken’s double to deep left field drove in two runs, tying the score at 4-4 and the Wreckers added another run on an RBI single. Greenwich went ahead, 4-2, in the sixth inning on a run-scoring single to left field by Perez. In the seventh inning, junior Justin Zych laid down a safety squeeze with scored a run, evening the score at 5-5 for Greenwich.
For the Cardinals, Perez drove in two runs, Auggie Bancroft had one hit and one RBI, Christian Mingione delivered two hits, Zych had two hits and an RBI, Babb had a hit and Zola had the run-scoring safety squeeze.
“We are having a great season, we’re grinding and this one against Staples is really big,” Zola said.
Said Arango: “I’m just super proud of the guys. Two times we were trailing in our last at-bat, we tied it once and we won it the second time.”