Greenwich Senior Cannons Exit Tourney With Heartbreaking Loss

Greenwich legion's hunter Frantz looks to make contact with the ball during a recent state playoff game. (John Ferris Robben photo)

Greenwich legion’s hunter Frantz looks to make contact with the ball during a recent state playoff game. (John Ferris Robben photo)

By Evan Triantafilidis
Sports Correspondent

In heartbreaking fashion, the Greenwich Senior Cannons lost two games in the American Legion Senior State Tournament against top-seeded Waterbury, ultimately being eliminated by a walk-off homer in the decisive third game.

Following a 4-2 game one win on Wednesday to give Greenwich the early edge, the Cannons were forced to the final game just thirty minutes after a 8-3 loss in game two.

Waterbury’s Nelson Merced launched a home run in the bottom of the ninth off of Greenwich’s Mike Genaro, handing the pitcher his first loss and ending the Cannon’s season with the swing of a bat.

“As a whole, I’m very proud of how far this team got,” Greenwich head coach Mike Abate said. “Facing adversity, these guys found ways to win. We were putting things together and I’m extremely proud of these guys and where we got to in the state tournament.”

In that decisive third game, Greenwich’s Genaro was on the mound warming up for the final game of the series.

A silent first inning was followed by a leadoff triple in the second by Waterbury’s Jamie Butler. Matthew Mancini would bring him in with an RBI single to open up the first lead of the game.

After giving up the run, Genaro settled in and did not allow another run to cross the plate until the eighth inning. In the mean time, the offense was finally picking up where they left off the day prior.

Four consecutive singles from Genaro, Christopher Frantz, JT Hintzen and Devin McGrath in the top of the fourth inning brought in a run to tie the game, despite leaving two runners on base at the end of the inning.

Genaro would continue to help his own cause by delivering a two-out RBI double down the left field line to bring Alex Loparco home in the top of the fifth inning.

An opportunity for the Cannons happened when Michael Monroe came on to pitch for Waterbury.

Facing his first batter of the day, Monroe got Ryan King to seemingly hit a routine ground ball to third base, but third baseman Merced tripped before he could make the throw to first. Two fly balls later, Monroe escaped the bases loaded jam as Greenwich stranded three runners on base for the second time of the game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Waterbury got their first two batters on base and the team would deploy their bread and butter move, the sacrifice bunt with the runner at third breaking for home.

Jamie Butler’s bunt barely even hit the ground before Tyrig Harris was in a sliding motion towards home plate. The Cannons could do nothing but get the sure out at first base as their lead was gone heading into the ninth inning.

Greenwich opened the ninth with a leadoff single from Kevin Woodring. Then, Collin Kelly hit a slow grounder back to the pitcher when Monroe came off the mound and fired a wild throw to first, well off the base and into unplayable territory.

Rounding second base, Woodring thought he would be awarded home plate because of the two-base infield overthrow rule of the field. Woodring was sent back to third base as the umpires decided that he did not touch second base by the time the pitcher threw the ball to first base.

The call was disputed, but the play was upheld and with no outs in the inning, the Cannons thought they were in a good position. Little did they know with zero outs how costly the call would be.

Three straight outs ended the inning and Waterbury was given the chance to win the game as Greenwich continued to leave runners on base.

Back out to pitch the ninth, Mike Genaro got Justin Rodriguez to flyout, but Nelson Merced ended the game with his second homer of the day, a walk-off down the left field line that ended with being surrounded and mobbed by his teammates at home plate.

Just like that, Greenwich’s season was over.

Abate said that with Genaro on the mound, there’s no other way he would have had it in the decisive game three, win or lose.

“Mike is one of the best pitchers in the state,” Abate said. “He was undefeated for us and to lose like that is heartbreaking. It was tough but you know what, if I’m going to lose, then I’m going to lose with Mike on the mound.”

Genaro struck out six batters and only allowed six hits on the day as well as going 3-for-6 at the plate with a double, two singles and an RBI.

Connor Langan started the first game of the day for the Cannons, giving up four runs in 5.1 innings, but while getting minimal run support from his teammates. It wasn’t until a Devin McGrath single in the fourth inning that their hit less streak was finally broken.

Langan gave up two runs in the first inning after allowing the first two batters to reach base, with the following two driving them in to go up 2-0.

After giving up an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning, Langan’s day was done as John Adimari came on in a relief role for the Cannons. He promptly gave up two runs, only one counting against Langan, after the first batter he faced. An infield error allowed the second run to score and an RBI bunt single drove in the third run of the inning.

Waterbury’s small ball style of play would haunt Greenwich for the whole day.

The Cannons would get two runs back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to an error on the part of Waterbury and their starter Shea Dooley walking in a run.

Waterbury would go on to score a run in each of the next three innings, one coming off of a homer from Merced’s bat in the top of the seventh inning and by the middle of the eighth inning their lead was built to 8-2.

Dooley walked in another run in the latter half of the eighth inning and the score would eventually end at 8-3 in favor of Waterbury. He held Greenwich to five hits in his complete game victory.

The chances were available for the Cannons, but runs were at a premium on Thursday as Greenwich left a total of 29 base runners stranded in the two games combined, including 16 left on base in game three alone.

“There were a lot of runners left in scoring position,” Abate said. “We just couldn’t score them. If you get one big hit there you break the game open and it’s a whole different story. We were right there and we’re extremely proud of these guys.”

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