Greenwich senior Cage Lasley stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh of a tie game against Newtown in the Round of 16 of the CIAC Class LL Tournament – a situation all hitters hope for.
And Lasley promptly delivered the type of hit all hitters, no doubt, envision.
Lasley’s single to right center field scored Tyler Cusimano, giving fourth-seeded Greenwich a dramatic 6-5 comeback win over upset-minded Newtown in the second round of the Class LL Tournament on Wednesday.
With the come-from-behind Round of 16 victory, the Cardinals advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinal round, where they will host fifth-seeded Fairfield Warde on Saturday at a time yet to be announced. The Cardinals have split their two games against the Mustangs so far this season, with Warde winning the most recent matchup – a 9-0 victory in the FCIAC final. Greenwich topped Warde, 10-3, in the regular season meeting between the squads.
Entering the bottom of the seventh inning in a 5-5 tie, Greenwich began the inning with a leadoff batter Tyler Cusimano drawing a walk off Newtown senior right-hander Zachary Kugler. With one out, junior third baseman Justin Zych reached on a walk, setting the scene for Lasley. Executing a double steal, Cusimano and Zych advanced to second and third, respectively. Then Lasley got his pitch and he registered the walk-off hit.
“With the infield in and less than two outs, I knew I had to put the ball in play,” Lasley said of his game-winning hit. “Fortunately, it fell in for a hit. It was a great feeling.”
Newtown (11-9), which entered the tournament as the No. 20 seed, gave Greenwich all it could handle. The Nighthawks led 2-0 after a half an inning and held a 5-4 edge going into the bottom of sixth inning.
“You never know what you’re going to get in the state tournament,” Lasley said. “Teams come in and compete and give it their all. Hats off to Newtown.”
Said Greenwich coach Adrian Arango: “Newtown has a great coach, I’ve known Ian (Thoesen) for a long time. They didn’t want to go home, no one wants to go home. We just found out the top three seeds lost, so like I told the kids, every game is going to be a battle. We are never going to feel like we are out of a game and that’s a testament to these boys and the way the play the game and how much they care about wanting to stay together for as long as possible.”
Trailing 5-4, Greenwich tied the score when senior second baseman Auggie Bancroft drove in a run with a fielder’s choice ground ball with the bases loaded. Senior outfielder Jack Zola and senior shortstop Christian Mingione each singled and senior catcher Felipe Echeto walked in the sixth inning for the Cardinals. Mingione went 2 for 3 with one run scored, Zych had a hit and two RBI, Zola connected for two hits and Echeto drove in a run for the Cardinals (18-4).
Chase Demers, a senior, had two hits and an RBI, while senior Karl Miller and senior Charlie Eppers each had one hit and one RBI for Newtown.
“They’ve got a great ball club, it was back and forth all game and they nipped us in the end,” Thoesen said. “We hit the ball hard, I told our guys they played their hearts out. It’s a tough way to lose today, but I’m very proud of how we played.”
Sophomore right-hander Nathan Jones started the game for Greenwich and allowed three runs on six hits in four innings. Senior left-hander Carson Bylciw pitched an inning-plus for the Cards, allowing two runs, one of which was earned and junior righty Tommy Healey, pitched an inning-plus of scoreless baseball to earn the win.
“We have a great pitching staff,” said Echeto, a catcher. “It’s tough for Nathan a sophomore and Tommy, a junior, to come into those games, but they have guts and they came in and did their job. Carson, a veteran pitcher, pitched well – just a great job by the pitchers.”
Arango appreciated the effort from each of his pitchers.
“Jones gave us his heart and soul as usual, he’s a sophomore out there,” he said. ‘Carson came in and gave us two huge innings. Every time we’ve given Tommy the ball, he’s come through for us. Even when we’ve lost he’s come through for us. He pitched well enough to win in the FCIAC championship.”
After Newtown scored a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, Greenwich knotted the score with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Zych’s two-run double to center field off Newtown sophomore right-hander William Burns tied the score at 2-2. The Cardinals used some nifty base-running in the third inning to steal a run. With junior Ryan Perez on first and pinch runner Javier Serra on third, Perez got caught in a run down while attempting to steal second base and Serra broke for home and scored, giving Greenwich a 3-2 edge.
The Nighthawks made it 3-3 when Eppers hit a run-scoring single to center field off Jones in the top of the fourth inning, but Echeto put the Cards back on top at 4-3 on Echeto’s RBI double to deep right field.
“As soon as I saw the fastball I jumped on it unfortunately, it was to the deepest part of the field, to right field,” Echeto said. “Still it was a good hit for the team and I think it gave us a boost.”
In the sixth inning, Newtown scored the tying run when Bylciw was charged with a balk with a runner on third base. A single up the middle by Petersen, put the visitors on top, 5-4, before Greenwich tied it in the bottom half of the inning.
Following four solid innings from Jones, Healey entered the game and also gave Greenwich a pitching lift.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I knew I had to do the job and not let any runs in,” Healey said. “No matter what the score is our team is always in the game. We have so many hitters on the team, so I just had to go in and throw up zeroes and that’s what I did. They are a good team, we knew we couldn’t underestimate them. They played their best and put up a good fight, but we came out with the win.”
Said Cusimano, who scored two runs: “They were a really good team, we definitely didn’t take them lightly, but we also had confidence we could win this game. They tested us early, they tested us late and it was a great job by us of getting the job done.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning with the game tied, Arango was impressed with Lasley’s at-bat.
“He’s a senior captain, a great kid and a scholar-athlete,” Arango said of Lasley. “He is a team-guy first, it’s never about him. When you get a senior captain come through like that, it just makes it all the more special.”
Saturday’s matchup against Warde marks Round 3 between the two FCIAC rivals.
“We are ready to go, that’s who we wanted when we started the state tournament, so we’re ready to go,” Healey said.
“To be able to fight for another day, as a team that’s the best feeling in the world,” Lasley said.