Ward pitches Norwalk past Greenwich in Class L baseball qualifier
Saturday’s CIAC Class LL qualifier between Norwalk and Greenwich featured two teams that used strong finishes to their respective regular seasons to earn a postseason game.
The Bears won six of their last six games, while the Cardinals went 5-1 down the stretch of the season heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Norwalk sophomore ace Vance Ward kept his squad rolling.
Striking out six batters over six stellar innings, Ward help lead No. 28 Norwalk to a 4-2 win over No. 37 Greenwich in the qualifying round of the Class LL Tournament at Nathan Hale Middle School in Norwalk.
Following a solid preseason, Ward was tabbed as the Bears’ No. 1 starter — a role he flourished at. Including Saturday’s significant win, the right-hander has a record of 6-1.
“Vance has been our No. 1 the whole year,” Norwalk coach Pete Tucci said. “He started the first game for us, which never happened before and I’ve been coaching 30 years. Never had a sophomore started the first game of the year.”
After a scoreless first inning, Ward allowed two runs in the second, then held the Cardinals off the scoreboard thereafter. Left-hander Ethan Platt, another sophomore, retired the side in order, including a strikeout of the final batter, to pick up the save.
“We needed for me to pitch like I have been pitching the whole year,” Ward said. “I have been throwing strikes, pounding the zone, getting quick outs and finishing innings quick.”
Greenwich right-hander Miles Langhorne, a sophomore, got the start, before being relieved by senior lefty Zach Karson. Senior right-hander, who pitched the final 4 1/3 innings relived Karson.
The Bears (11-10) scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning of Langhorne. Junior outfielder Kyle Gordon led off the inning with a single and went to third on a single by senior shortstop Jack Arnold. Senior second baseman Michael Boylan followed with a single, scoring Gordon and giving Norwalk a 1-0 lead. An RBI single by senior outfielder Myles Andriopoulos extended the Bears’ advantage to 2-0.
“When we got the early runs, it boosted my confidence a little bit and made me feel a little more comfortable going through the rest of the game,” Ward said.
Greenwich tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the second inning, string four straight hits together off Ward. With two outs, senior outfielder Henry Jonokuchi started the rally with a single and scored on junior shortstop Chris Genaro’s base hit. Junior Ben Nash brought Genaro home with a single and Ian Colalucci also singled in the inning.
Ward settled down after that, yielding only one hit the next four innings.
“Credit their pitcher, he pumps strikes,” GHS coach Mike Mora said. “He really battled and he’s a sophomore, which is impressive.”
Norwalk broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the third inning. Sophomore third baseman Brendan Edvardsen delivered a key run-scoring single in the inning for the Bears, who capitalized on a Cardinals error.
In the sixth inning, Greenwich loaded the bases behind a single by junior catcher Hunter Gruenstrass and walks by sophomore Danny Perez and Jonokuchi. Yet Ward kept his team in front. Roath pitched well for GHS, holding the Bears scoreless in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
As he has done all season, Ward stepped up on the mound for the Bears.
“He throws strikes, he’s a strike machine,” Tucci said of Ward. “He has enough velocity to keep people off balance and he has a nice change-up and breaking ball, so he can throw three pitches for strikes.”
QUITE A TURNAROUND
After losing 11 of their 14 games, Greenwich rebounded to make a state qualifier, which impressed Mora.
“We were 3-11 and we weren’t really together,” Mora said. “I think that Wilton game (a 14-4 win) helped us turn the switch on and the kids bought into the team atmosphere. From then, we were in every game and the kids played for each other.”
Said Jonokuchi, who had two hits: “Even in our worst stretches, we never gave up and we had each other’s backs. A lot of teams probably would have folded, but we all stuck together. It ended up being a very enjoyable season.”
Norwalk visits No. 5-seeded Staples in Tuesday’s opening round at 3:30 p.m.
“They pounded us the first time we played them, but I told the kids, life is a challenge and you want to meet a challenge head-on and look forward to it,” Tucci said.