Summer Sports

Greenwich Cannons score two runs in seventh inning to edge Danbury, 5-4

Photo by Sue Healey: Tommy Healey pitched seven strong innings to earn the win for Greenwich against Danbury Legion.

Four walks in the bottom of the seventh inning fittingly resulted in a walk-off win for the Greenwich Senior American Legion Cannons on Monday.

Trailing Zone 4 rival Danbury by one run in the seventh inning, Greenwich used four walks and a double to register a 5-4 comeback victory in a game for first place in the Zone 4 Western Division Standings.

The Cannons’ triumph against the Danbury Westerners at Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich wasn’t without some seventh-inning controversy. Cannons first baseman Cage Lasley stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs with the scored tied at 4-4. Danbury relief pitcher Spencer Barnett threw three straight balls to Lasley. His fourth pitch appeared to be out of the strike zone and no call was initially made by the home plate umpire. Lasley tossed his bat and trotted to first base, while Hunter Gruenstrass, who walked earlier in the inning, was jogging home from third with what seemed to be, the winning run.

However, the home plate umpire called the pitch a strike, but seemed to hesitate several seconds while making the call. Westerners catcher Nicholas Mercing tagged Gruenstrass out at the plate and Cannons manager Mike Abate argued that he shouldn’t have been called out, since the strike call was made late and the batter and base runners thought it was a ball.

Abate was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and for arguing about what transpired, yet the home plate umpire did not call Gruenstrass out. He had him return back to third, since he made the strike call late, which caused confusion.

Once order was restored, Lasley took a ball from Barnett on the next pitch, Gruenstrass scored and the Cannons registered a 5-4 win.

“I got mad, because first of all you can’t call a strike that that late, you have to make the call,” Abate said. “He sent him (Gruenstrass) back to the bag, because he made the call way too late.”

Behind 4-3 after Danbury scored a run in the top of the seventh inning, Greenwich’s rally in the final inning began with a one-out double to right center field by Christian Mingione. Gruenstrass, a catcher, walked, then right fielder Ben Nash drew his third walk of the evening to load the bases. Left fielder Jack Zola drew a base on balls to force in a run, tying the score at 4-4.

Photo by Sue Healey: Hunter Gruenstrass follows through on a double during Greenwich’s game against Danbury.

Then the drama ensued with Lasley drawing a walk to score Gruenstrass and end the game.

“Jack saw four straight pitches, so I took three straight pitches and took what I thought was ball four that was called a strike and that led to the fiasco,” Lasley said. “We were rewarded with another ball and the game came to our hands.”

With the win, the Cannons moved into first place in Zone 4’s Western Division with a record of 17-6. Danbury, which entered the game in first place, has an 18-7 mark. Stamford, which defeated Greenwich three straight times last week, is in third place at 15-7. Abate noted that Greenwich must win its final two games of the regular season this week to clinch the Zone 4 regular season title.

“We have a game lead, but we have two games left,” Abate said. “If we lose one, depending on what Stamford does, there could be a three-way tie, it’s all bunched up.”

The Cannons manager also noted that there are two Connecticut American Legion State Tournaments this year. One tournament includes the winner of each of the six Zones. This tournament most likely starts Saturday.

“If you don’t win the division, you go to another state tournament, which starts August 2,” Abate explained.

Tommy Healey, a rising Greenwich High School senior, pitched a complete game to earn the win for the Cannons. Healey, a right-hander, who performed a key pitching role for Greenwich High’s baseball team in the spring, struck out four batters, while allowing four hits in seven innings.

Photo by Sue Healey: First baseman Cage Lasley catches a throw during the Greenwich Cannons’ game vs. Danbury.

“There are a lot of good hitters on that team and they all put the ball in play,” Healey said of Danbury. “They all swung at all of my pitches and they recognized them pretty early. It was hard to get pitches by them – they are a good group of hitters for sure. The curve ball and fastball were really good for me today.”

Abate and the Cannons are accustomed to seeing Healey pitch deep into games.

“Tommy’s been like that all year for us,” Abate said. “He throws strikes, he attacks the zone. Every time he is out there we have a good chance to win.”

Danbury right-hander Michael Malgieri was also up to the task. He posted six strikeouts in five innings, while allowing one earned run. The Cannons broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. Mingione walked – Greenwich drew 11 walks for the game – then Gruenstrass laced a double to left center field. Third baseman Justin Zych walked, then Nash reached base on a fielder’s choice ground ball, that scored a run. A second run came home on the throw to first base, giving the Cannons a 2-0 lead. Zola followed by smashing a triple to deep right field, making it 3-0.

“It was a big spot, we just drove two runs in and I wanted to get the third run in,” said Zola, a 2021 GHS graduate. “He’s a good pitcher, so I tried to put the ball on the barrel.”

Danbury closed to within 3-2 on a two-run single by Jackson Ciccone in the top of the fifth inning. Scott Gersten ignited the Westerner’s rally with a double. In the sixth inning, Danbury tied the score at 3-3 on an RBI single by Mercing. After Barnett came on in relief and pitched out of a bases loaded no out jam in the sixth, Danbury went ahead, 4-3, with an unearned run in the seventh inning.

Photo by Sue Healey: Ben Nash rounds third base for the Greenwich Cannons during their matchup against rival Danbury.

Gruenstrass had a double, two walks and two runs scored, Nash had three walks and scored a run, Lasley had a hit, a walk and an RBI and Mingione hit a double and scored a pair of runs in the winning effort.

“I’m ecstatic, that was a great comeback win,” Healey said. “That shows that we have a whole lot of heart and that we’re ready to face anybody. We’re ready for the playoffs and hopefully, we’ll get first in our division.”

Categories: Summer Sports

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