Staples rallies to beat Greenwich and reach Class LL semifinals
Updated 5:46 pm, Sunday, June 7, 2015
WESTPORT -- You can't defend against a walk in baseball, a well-known fact Greenwich was repeatedly reminded of during Friday's Class LL Tournament quarterfinal against Staples.
Displaying a keen eye at the plate, the Wreckers put plenty of runners on base against the Cardinals, courtesy of the walk. And when pitchers get into jams against a lineup as formidable as Staples,' they're flirting with danger.
Capitalizing on eight walks, six of which came during the second inning, and receiving three RBI apiece from juniors Nate Panzer and Noah Yokoi, fourth-seeded Staples registered an 8-5 comeback win over No. 21 Greenwich.
The Wreckers (21-5) advanced to Tuesday's semifinals, where they will face eighth-seeded Norwalk at a time and site yet to be determined.
"We had a game plan -- we weren't going to help the pitcher today," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "We were going to make them throw strikes and they had a little trouble today, issuing free passes. I thought our guys did a really nice job of being patient and talking walks."
Panzer went 2 for 2 with a home run, a triple and three RBI, while Yokoi delivered a clutch two-run double for the host Wreckers. Senior left fielder Jason Capozza went 2 for 3 with a two-run single, while junior catcher Kevin Woodring was 2 for 4 for the Cardinals. Greenwich, which knocked off No. 12 Fairfield Warde and fifth-seeded Darien en route to reaching the quarterfinals, finished its season at 13-10.
"I'm proud of this team," GHS coach Phil Tarantino said. "They are a model team, I wish I could coach this team every year."
Due to inclement weather on Monday and Tuesday, the tournament tested each team's pitching staff, as the squads took the diamond three consecutive days. Senior right-hander Marco Latella pitched 4ï»¿1/3 innings for the win, while sophomore George Goldstein, who McFarland thought about starting, went the final 2ï»¿2/3 innings to pick up the save.
"We have some pitchers, we are pretty deep in that department," McFarland said.
Staples seized the lead for good with a three-run fourth inning. Mike Cusa walked and Panzer was hit by a pitch from GHS senior righty Peter Delepine, who was then relieved by senior Alex Loparco with no one out. No. 2 hitter Ben Casparius grounded an RBI single down the third base line, tying the score at 5-5. Yokoi followed by lacing a two-run double off the fence in left center field, giving the Wreckers a 7-5 advantage. Panzer added an RBI triple in the fifth inning, extending Staples edge to 8-5.
The victors had only four hits for the game, but they made each one count. Helping the Wreckers cause was of course the eight walks.
"You can't defend walks," Tarantino said. "We have been playing great defense. I didn't think it would be where control would be an issue. With our defense, it could have been a different outcome."
Greenwich, which totaled seven hits, jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead. Designated hitter Eric Mini hit a run-scoring single and Capozza plated two with a single for the Cards, who capitalized on an infield error.
"We've been working very hard the week we had off during the FCIAC Tournament and tried to work on hitting the ball during that week," Woodring said. "We focused on going the opposite way and we hit well during this tournament. A lot of people had great at-bats."
The home team took a 4-3 edge in the second inning without getting a hit. Six walks did the trick, as the Wreckers tied the game off sophomore right-hander Connor Langan, who gave way to Delepine with one out in the inning. Panzer led off the first inning with a home run over the "Blue Monster" in left field, cutting Greenwich's lead to 3-1.
"Going down 3-0 in the first inning, we had faith in our lineup," Panzer said. "I was just trying to set the table for the guys behind me and I was just able to connect on a pitch. One swing of the bat can do a lot of damage in this park. Our lineup is a force to be reckoned with."
Said McFarland: "When you are chasing three runs right away, you have to be patient and we were."
Loparco drove in a run by grounding into a fielder's choice and the Cardinals added a second run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch to go ahead, 5-4.
"This run we made in the tournament definitely felt special," Loparco said. "We felt cheated that we didn't make FCIACs, so we wanted to come back and make a run in states and we did just that. I'm proud of the way we fought back."
In the sixth inning with Marco Pastore on first, Loparco hit a drive to deep right center field that was run down and caught by Panzer, the center fielder.
"We put good swings on the ball and to their credit their center fielder made a great play," Tarantino said. "That was a big play."
Said Goldstein: "He (Panzer) is an amazing player and the rest of the defense did a great job," Goldstein said. "I tried to get the ball down and let our great defense do the rest."
Staples 8, Greenwich 5
GREENWICH 300 200 0 -- 5 7 1
STAPLES 130 310 x -- 8 4 1
Records: Staples 21-5; Greenwich 13-10
Batteries: G -- Connor Langan (LP 1ï»¿1/3 IP), Peter Delepine (2 IP), Alex Loparco (3 IP) and Kevin Woodring; S -- Marco Latella (4ï»¿1/3 IP, WP), George Goldstein (2ï»¿2/3 IP) and Noah Yokoi. Triples: S -- Panzer; Home runs: S -- Panzer.