Falling behind by six runs to Ridgefield in Thursday night’s FCIAC Tournament semifinal didn’t cause Greenwich’s baseball team to panic or press. Instead, the Cardinals hit and hit and yes, hit.
If scoring six runs of their own in the second inning to tie the score wasn’t impressive enough, the Cardinals proceeded to add 13 runs in a third inning that lasted almost an hour.
When this wild, three-hour game finally ended, top-seeded Greenwich earned a berth in the FCIAC Tournament’s championship game with a resounding 26-11 semifinal-round victory fifth-seeded Ridgefield at crowded Cubeta Stadium in Stamford.
The Cardinals play second-seeded Fairfield Warde at Cubeta Stadium in the FCIAC title game today at 1 p.m. The matchup marks Greenwich’s first appearance in the conference final since the 2012 season. Greenwich last won the FCIAC championship in 2004.
Coached by Adrian Arango, Greenwich’s relentless lineup pounded out 18 hits, scored six runs in the second inning, 13 in the third one in the fourth and six more in the fifth.
“I told the umpire in the sixth inning, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a game like that before,” Arango said. “When you’re down 6-0 to a team a caliber of Ridgefield, a well-coached, well-oiled machine and for us to show the fight we did was impressive.”
Ridgefield used five pitchers in efforts to slow down Greenwich’s potent lineup, but it was unable to keep the Cardinals’ offense at bay.
“The offense was outstanding, but it was a tough game pitching-wise, defense-wise and Greenwich was hitting laser beams all over the place,” Ridgefield coach Mike Scarlett said. “It was one of those games where their bats were unable to be quieted by our pitchers.”
Senior catcher Felipe Echeto recorded five RBI, while junior third baseman Justin Zych drove in four runs for the Cardinals, who were edged by Ridgefield, 7-6, during the regular season. Christian Mingione, a senior shortstop, knocked in two runs, senior first baseman Cage Lasley had three RBI, junior outfielder Ryan Perez had two RBI, as did junior outfielder Tyler Cusimano for the victors.
“Once we got down 6-0 we had a lot of fight,” Mingione said. “We knew we had the potential to do that, but 26 is a pretty large number. Once one of us started going, we all started to click as a bunch.”
The semifinal matchup had an ominous start for the Cardinals, who watched the Tigers scored three times in both the first and second innings to seize a 6-0 advantage. Ridgefield drew four walks off Greenwich senior left-hander Carson Bylciw in a first inning that saw third baseman Daniel Bucciero deliver a run-scoring single. In the second inning, Ridgefield walked five more times and first baseman Andrew Filipelli hit a two-run single, putting the Tigers on top, 6-0. Sophomore right-hander Nathan Jones relieved Bylciw in the top of the second inning and in the bottom half of the inning, the Cardinals’ offense did plenty of damage.
Zych got the Cardinals on the scoreboard with a run-scoring single, Echeto hit an RBI single up the middle and Perez drove in two runs off Ridgefield junior right-hander Andrew Castelluccio, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 6-4. Senior Miles Langhorne reached on an infield error, which allowed a run to score and the Cards’ added a second unearned run to score in the inning to knot the game up at 6-6.
Bucciero grounded a single between third base and shortstop that scored one run in the top of the third inning, giving Ridgefield a 7-6 edge, but the Tigers’ lead didn’t last long. With two runners on base, Zych smashed a two-run triple, putting the Cardinals ahead for good at 8-7.
“We all have confidence and once we started stringing hits together, it felt like we couldn’t be stopped,” Zych said.
The playoff game drew a nice-sized crowd, with both teams bringing a large amount of fans.
“The crowd was going crazy, it gave us a ton of momentum to keep coming back,” Zych said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Right-hander Jacob Voellmicke relieved Castelluccio and Cusimano greeted him by hit a bases-loaded, two-run double, increasing Greenwich’s lead to 10-7. Perez drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Langhorne hit a run-scoring single and Lasley knocked in a run with a single, making it 13-7. Mingione added an RBI single in the inning, while Zych and Echeto each hit RBI doubles.
During the 13-run inning, Greenwich sent 15 batters to the plate.
“Ridgefield has a good lineup, but we know we’re a team that could also hit,” Echeto said. “We knew we had to outhit them tonight and our bats got hot. I’m just happy to be a part of this.”
Echeto drove home another run with a single in the fourth inning and after the Tigers scored four runs in the fifth inning off right-hander Nathan Jones – two of which came off a triple from Ben Cherico – Greenwich responded with six more runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Lasley connected for a two-run double off Ridgefield reliever Wyatt Jacobson, Mingione hit a sacrifice fly, and Echeto cracked a two-run double off the center field fence to highlight another big Cardinals inning.
“It was really important to feed off one another and feed off the energy,” Lasley said. “We focused on putting the ball in play and make them make the plays.”
Said Scarlett: “It was a great start by our team. “We were patient against their starter, we were on the ball against their relievers and we were feeling confident. It was a long second inning, with too many long at-bats. We just couldn’t get out of the inning. They ran up our starter’s pitch count and the guys who came in did their best, but it just wasn’t our night.”
After Jones provided effective relief pitching, senior Matthew Chioditti closed out the game for the Cardinals, who defeated Warde last week, 10-3, in a game that decided the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament.
“I’m super proud of the boys and the way they battled,” Arango said. “First to come back to tie the game and then to be a part of an inning, where it lasted almost an hour. That was something. We’re capable of swinging the bats the way we did tonight.”