Michael Bocchino won’t forget the first hit of his varsity career as a member of the Greenwich High School baseball team and neither will his Cardinals teammates.
A sophomore catcher, Bocchino certainly faced a high-pressure situation in his first varsity game, as he stood at the plate with two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Cardinals trailing Newtown by one run.
And like last season, when Greenwich edged Newtown with a walk-off win in the CIAC Class LL Tournament, the Cardinals posted a dramatic victory against the Nighthawks in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Saturday, it was Bocchino who provided the game-winning hit, as his double off the left center field fence scored two runs, giving Greenwich a 3-2 walk-off win over Newtown at Julian Curtiss School.
Bocchino, a right-handed hitting catcher, batting fifth in the order, scored third baseman Justin Zych and outfielder Aidan Rosario with his booming double with two outs in the seventh inning and the Cardinals trailing 2-1 in its season-opener.
“The last at-bat I saw we had runners on and a chance to tie the game and even win it, so I was just trying to put some good metal on the ball, get a hit and get some runs in,” Bocchino said. “I put good enough metal on it to get a hit. It was a fastball middle away and easy to extend on it.”
Bocchino, who called a good game behind the plate in his first game with the Cardinals, just missed fastballs thrown by Newtown right-hander William Burns, who struck him out in his first two at-bats.
“It was a lot of relief when I got the hit in the seventh inning, because I started off a little shaky, I was close on some pitches,” Bocchino said. “I was overswinging, so I was trying to stay within myself and that’s what happens when I listen in my head and stay within myself.”
Greenwich coach Adrian Arango was, of course, highly impressed with the poise Bocchino displayed at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Cardinals behind 2-1.
“I talked to him after his last at-bat and he was too anxious,” Arango said of Bocchino. “He was taking big swings and was looking at me taking big swings. I said, ‘just keep your head down and make contact, even a blooper will work,’ and he almost puts one out. It was a double off the fence, that would have been out Greenwich High I think.”
Saturday’s game was held at Julian Curtiss School instead of Greenwich High School, due to field conditions at GHS. Senior right-handed pitchers Nathan Jones and Tommy Healey combined to pitch seven standout innings. Effectively using his fastball, Jones struck out eight batters in four innings, while allowing two runs. Healey pitched three innings of shutout ball, registering four strikeouts, to earn the win.
“Jones kept us in the game, he got some big outs for us,” Arango said. “We made a couple of mistakes behind him, but he battled through, he was able to hold them to a couple of runs. Tommy coming in and pounding the zone, they had first and second no outs in the second, if they extend that lead, who knows what happens. They have been through the gauntlet of pitching. Last year, they pitched in the biggest games for us and it’s just amazing.”
Bocchino received an up-close look at the velocity and location Jones and Healey had on the mound.
“I think they did a great job, we faced a really good team today and to hold them to two runs is incredible,” Bocchino said. “With Nathan starting off really strong and then Tommy coming in and shutting them out is huge.”
After Newtown scored one run in the top of the first inning, Greenwich tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom half of the inning. Senior outfielder Ryan Perez drew a walk from Burns, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when Rosario reached on an infield error, knotting the score at 1-1.
Newtown took a 2-1 advantage in the fourth inning, on a triple and RBI single off Jones. In the seventh inning the Nighthawks (0-1) put runners on first and second with no one out, but Healey pitched out of the jam, keeping it a one-run game.
“I felt really good, it was my first outing and I feel fresh from the offseason,” Healey said. “We need to put a lot of work in, so we both did really well today and were fresh and ready to go.”
“We have a really deep pitching staff, we have so many guys who can come in and do a good job as well and we’re really excited about that,” Healey added.
Said Arango: “Tommy coming in and pounding the zone, they had first and second no outs in the second, if they extend that lead, who knows what happens.”
Leadoff hitter/first baseman Tyler Cusimano had one hit, as did Zych for the Cards (1-0). Rosario had one hit, along with Bocchino, Healey and Jones. Perez drew a walk and reached on an error, while senior James Babb also drew a walk for the victors.
Last season, Greenwich advanced to the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament with a 6-5 comeback victory against Newtown, scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a single by Cage Lasley, a 2021 GHS graduate.
“Newtown is a great team, we walked them off in the state tournament last year,” Arango said. “Everybody contributed to this win and it’s not going to get easier for us.”
Greenwich visits Staples on Thursday at 4:30 p.m., then hosts Xavier on April 11 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup.
“We want to get back to what we did last year and capitalize on what we did last year,” Healey said. “We want to win FCIACs and states.”
Bocchino, was of course, a bit anxious in his first varsity game, especially being the starting catcher, but he quickly settled down.
“I was a little nervous, but once I get behind the plate it’s all business and it’s just business as usual,” he said.