After Hamden Post 88 began yesterday’s Senior American Legion state tournament game with a hit against the Greenwich Cannons, it was held hitless the rest of the way, a pattern the Cannons certainly didn’t follow.
Hits and runs were plentiful for Greenwich, resulting in a resounding six-inning win, its third straight victory in the American Legion 2022 U19 State Tournament.
Right-hander Zack Alza pitched a one-hitter over five innings and Greenwich pounded out 16 hits in an impressive 10-0 victory over Hamden in the POD E final of the state tournament’s Southern Division bracket at Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich.
With the triumph, which saw Greenwich win by the 10-run rule, the Cannons advanced to the state tournament’s Super Regionals, which will take place at storied Palmer Field in Middletown. Greenwich will compete in the four-team Middletown Regional, which begins Saturday.
The four-team Bristol Regional will be held at Muzzy Field in Bristol and also commences on Saturday. The Middletown and Bristol Regional Super Regionals will both follow a double-elimination format, with the winners of each regional advancing to the state final of the American Legion U19 Tournament.
The Cannons have been superb in the state tournament so far, going 3-0, while outscoring their opponents (Milford, Fairfield, Hamden) 28-4 in the process.
“We came out ready to play, we got big hits and scored runs,” Cannons coach Mike Abate said of his squad’s performance yesterday. “Now we’re going to play at Palmer Field, which is a nice venue for the kids.”
Greenwich scored single runs in the first and second innings, added three runs in the third inning, scored once in the fourth and plate a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth.
Alza, meanwhile, was outstanding on the mound for the Cannons, allowing only one hit and one walk, while throwing just 59 pitches in five innings to earn the win.
“Waking up this morning, I knew I was going to be on the bump today,” Alza said. “I wanted to attack early, using my defense and it worked successfully. We had a bunch of good plays on defense. We had two double plays today, which definitely helped out a lot.”
At the plate, Greenwich was ignited by leadoff hitter/second baseman Riley Redahan, who went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI, first baseman Nathan Jones (3 for 4, two RBIs), shortstop Tommy Healey (two hits, two RBIs), Alza 2 for 4, two RBIs) and third baseman Justin Zych (two hits, three runs scored).
Scoring double figures in runs again was a welcome sight to Alza, who held Hamden’s lineup at bay.
“When we have insurance runs, it’s definitely a relief on the mound,” he said. “You can just relax and attack the batters even more.”
The only run Greenwich wound up needing in this matchup came in the first inning off Hamden right-hander Lawrence Rarick. Jones’ double to the gap in left center field scored Zych, giving the Cannons a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, Andrew Walko began a rally with a single and later scored on a single up the middle by Redahan, making it 2-0.
The third inning saw the Cannons tack on three runs, with outfielder Wyatt Gibson, Alza and Walko each driving in a run apiece with singles off Rarick, putting their team on top, 5-0. Healey delivered a double during the Cannons’ three-run inning.
Alza delivered a run-scoring single off Hamden right-handed reliever Joshua Greenberg in the fourth inning, while Jones drew a base-loaded walk in the fifth inning and Healey knocked in a run with a ground ball, extending the home team’s lead to 8-0. The Cannons improved their record to 17-9 with the win.
“We started the season really hot, we were firing on all cylinders, then we hit a rough patch about a week or two ago,” Jones said. “But we overcame adversity and everyone stepped up. We’re executing good at-bats and driving in runs in clutch situations.”
If Greenwich wins the four-team Middletown Regional of the U19 State Tournament, it will advance to the tournament’s championship game. Their opponent on Saturday at Palmer Field in Middletown is yet to be determined.
“Everyone is putting good at-bats together,” Jones said. “We’re getting into hitter’s counts and we’re putting pressure on the pitcher to make a pitch and then we’re putting the ball in play and making things happen. I think we’re going into Palmer Field with a lot of confidence.”
Healey ended the game by hitting a bases-loaded two run single in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Cannons the 10-0, 10-run rule triumph. Leadoff hitter Malcolm Benton had Hamden’s lone hit in the first inning.
Alza struck out three batters and walked only one in five highly impressive innings. Gibson pitched a hitless sixth inning to cap the Cannons’ win.
“My four-seam and my two-seam were pretty spot on,” said Alza, who worked well with catcher Felipe Echeto. “I didn’t really throw too many off-speed pitches and when I did, I worked in my change-up rather than my curve ball.”
Said Abate: “He’s (Alza) been our workhorse. He has been throwing strikes and competing and he’s one of the reasons why we’re where we are right now.”
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