Saturday, April 25, 2009

GHS Baseball Shows It's Guts

Greenwich High School had no business winning yesterday. As I watched their first inning against Norwalk at Cardinal Yard, all I could do was shake my head. Whenever I'm with the Cardinals, head coach Mike Mora asks me about scoring decisions, assistant coach Tom Healy talks strategy and keeps the team loose, and pitching coach Eric Loh talks...well...pitching. Yet he and I are the two most likely to chat about anything and everything. We talk strategy, game play, hockey, radio, and whatever else.

We were both baffled in that first inning yesterday.

Five runs for Norwalk with no hits, thanks to five Greenwich errors.

Oh but there were enough mental errors to add five more (runs and errors). Players weren't covering bases and were misplaying balls. It seemed like nobody knew what to do with the ball.

To be blunt, Greenwich played the first inning like they weren't prepared. It got so bad that Mora motored to the mound, spent about one minute and returned. One person said to no one in particular, "I'm glad I'm not out there."

Me too.

Even as the Cardinals continued to sleepwalk at the plate, the Bears didn't score. Senior starting pitcher Yuta Okazaki stayed steady, keeping the few that got into scoring position from crossing the plate. The defense seemed to wake up - shortstop Kevin Collins gunned a runner down at third and helped turn a double play in the seventh.

Something happened to the Cards at the plate. It began in the third, as Collins drew a bases-loaded walk to cut the deficit to 5-1. In the fourth, an error and an RBI groundout by tri-captain Adam Franchella brought Greenwich to within two at 5-3. The Cards added two in the fifth, as tri-captain Ricky Riscica singled and scored on a single by Collins. After a strikeout by tri-captain Jeff DeVico (I write this because "Cuz" is a great kid who is struggling at the plate, and he can handle this), third baseman DJ Maloney singled and an error on the play brought Collins home.

Ladies and gentleman, we had a tie game.

The tension built from there as we went into extra innings. Norwalk initially had the better of the chances, getting two on in both the seventh and eighth innings. Okazaki left them there each time, inducing a grounder to end the eighth and two fly balls to get through the ninth.

In the last of the ninth, right fielder Robbie Catalano singled, followed by a single for Riscica, who seemed like he was groomed to win this game (I had visions of a home run, to be honest). Riscica doesn't know that he's earned a new nickname from me: "Tex", as in Mark Teixeira. Collins ended the day with his third RBI as Catalano scored to touch off a raucous celebration - one that had been building as the afternoon went along.

This was a team effort, with credit to the tri-captains for keeping their teammates in the game - Franchella and Riscica both gave strong speeches (even if they both made me laugh). DeVico showed heart and the willingness to beat his 'mates up at times, but was equally tough on himself.

Okazaki pitched his heart out - his line looked like this: 9 IP, 112 pitches, five runs, none earned, eight hits, 2 walks (one intentional), one hit batsman, three strikeouts.

The Cards need to keep this momentum rolling this week with four games: at Harding, home against Darien, at Stamford and home for Ludlowe.

It was a joy to be part of this game, which improves the Cardinals to 5-3 and 4-2 in the FCIAC. A huge gut-check win for them. One that they certainly didn't deserve after the first inning, but earned by the end of the day.

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