Winning a state title is the Greenwich baseball team’s ultimate goal and it took the first step toward achieving its season-long mission on Tuesday.
It took power and pitching to do so and Ryan Perez certainly supplied the power.
A junior outfielder, Perez went 4 for 4 with a home run and four RBI to lead fourth-seeded Greenwich to a 10-3 win over 29th-seeded Cheshire in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament. The Cardinals (17-4) advanced to Wednesday’s Round of 16, where they will host No. 20 Newtown at 4 p.m.
Greenwich, which lost to Fairfield Warde in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament this past Friday, scored two runs in the first inning, one run in the second inning and added seven more in the pivotal third inning against Cheshire.
“The FCIACs are over, we’re over that game,” Greenwich coach Adrian Arango said. “You’ve got to move on, there’s no time to feel bad for yourself. I thought we came out with good intensity early in the game and we put up some crooked numbers.”
Senior right-hander Miles Langhorne, the Cardinals’ pitching ace, received the start. But Langhorne left the game after pitching 1 2/3 innings due to experiencing stiffness in his right forearm. He threw 47 pitches and recorded five strikeouts until he left the game with discomfort in his forearm.
“It’s tough, he’s given us so much this year and he’s had all the pressure on him this year,” Arango said of Langhorne. “It’s not easy. People think it’s easy, you walk out there and throw 90 miles per hour, but it hasn’t been easy for him and we hope he’s okay and that he’s healthy enough to come back for us.”
Langhorne, who has committed to Vanderbilt and is being heavily scouted by Major League Baseball scouts. He will have an MRI soon. Senior right-hander Matt Chioditti relieved Langhorne and pitched 3 1/3 solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits, while posting five strikeouts.
“Miles came out of the game, which was unexpected, so obviously, we hope he gets better, because he’s our best guy and we’re going to need him going forward,” Chioditti said. “Once I got in there, I calmed down and saw that we had the lead. I knew we were going to get runs behind me and I knew I had a great defense behind me, so props to my teammates. They made it a lot easier for me on the mound.”
Chioditti earned the win in relief and was relieved by senior right-hander John McGrath, who allowed one run in two innings.
“With Miles coming out of the game, I want to produce and still help the team win the game,” Chioditti said. “We knew they are a great program, we knew their 29 seed didn’t define them and that it was going to be a tough task and we came in here and took care of business.”
Added Arango: “Matt has come in on multiple occasions in big spots and he’s been able to step up and be big for us, which has been great.”
In the first inning, junior center fielder Tyler Cusimano and Perez each singled off Rams senior right-hander Michael Bankowski and eventually scored, giving the home team a 2-0 lead. Cusimano’s triple scored senior second baseman Auggie Bancroft in the second inning, extending Greenwich’s advantage to 3-0. The Cards scored seven times in the third inning off Bankowski and junior Daniel Zawalich, who relieved Bankowski. The big inning began with a single by Cusimano and was highlighted by Perez’s two-run home run, making it 5-0.
“I just had to do the job, I’m sure if I didn’t do it, someone else could have done it,” the lefty hitting Perez said.
For the game, Greenwich has 13 hits.
“This year, we’ve struggled to score runs at the beginning of the game, so today we came out and got some runs, which was important,” Perez said. “We have momentum and we feel confident going into our next game.”
Perez also doubled in the winning effort. Chioditti had one hit and one run scored, senior first baseman Cage Lasley had one hit, an RBI and one run scored, senior outfielder Jack Zola had a hit and an RBI, while senior shortstop Christian Mingione had one hit, scored a run and knocked in a run for the victors.
Also pacing the Cardinals’ lineup were junior third baseman Justin Zych (one hit, an RBI, a run scored) and senior catcher Felipe Echeto (one hit, one RBI, one run scoring). Mingione also made several sparkling plays at shortstop.
“The infield has a really good connection,” Mingione said. “Myself and Auggie Bancroft, our second baseman, we’ve played in the infield together for a long time and Cage saves us a lot. Our infield works really hard to be the best we can be.”
Senior shortstop Ryan Scialabba hit a seventh-inning solo homer for Cheshire and teammate Ian Wirtz, a sophomore went 3 for 3. Displaying patience, Greenwich’s batters drew nine walks from the Rams’ pitchers.
“We knew Cheshire would be a good test for us,” Arango said. “We knew their pitcher was good, I heard good things about him. He just had a little trouble with command, which is a credit to us, because we took a lot of pitches.”
Greenwich’s Round of 16 matchup against Newtown is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
“FCIACs are behind us, our first practice on Sunday, that’s what we said – we have new goals. “Winning states is the ultimate goal, always.”