New Canaan Baseball Tops Stratford 11-2 in Class L Opener


With rain pushing the opening game of the CIAC Class L playoffs from Monday to Wednesday—with a potential second round game to follow on Thursday—New Canaan Rams head coach Mitch Hoffman knew pitching would be at a premium. A best-case scenario for New Canaan would be to open up a big lead for pitcher David Giusti, allowing Hoffman to get his ace some much-needed rest for the road ahead.

Thankfully for the Rams, Hoffman could not have written a better script himself Wednesday afternoon at Mead Park.

Tenth-seeded New Canaan scored five runs in the first inning and added three more in the second en route to an 11-2 win over No. 23 Stratford. The Rams’ fast start gave Hoffman the cushion he needed to pull Giusti after just two innings of work, making the New Canaan hurler available for tomorrow’s matchup against No. 7 seed Windsor. The Warriors won their opening round game 5-0 over No. 26 Guilford.

“It’s like a work day, David will start tomorrow and we’ll see what happens,” Hoffman told “Windsor is a very good baseball team, and there are a lot of intangibles. We have to get on a bus and travel two hours. There are a lot of things that can creep up on you.”

Nothing crept up on New Canaan against Stratford as the Rams outhit the Red Devils 14 to 5 and remained comfortably ahead the entire game even without Giusti, who—after allowing a leadoff single—struck out five consecutive hitters to cap off two spectacular shutout innings.

“David was nasty as always,” said senior co-captain Alex LaPolice who went 1-2 with 2 runs in just his second game back while recovering from a torn ulnar collateral ligament. “It was nice to score eight in the first two so we got him out of there quick. So we have him for tomorrow, which is huge. We added a ton of pitching depth with our offense today.”

Sophomore Mike Pelli threw three innings, allowing only three hits and one run over three innings pitched while striking out three. Nick Woodard pitched the final two innings, giving up one unearned run on one hit.

For Hoffman, it was a nice change of pace from the usual frenetic, dramatic, come-from-behind games in which the Rams seemed to specialize this season.

“It was great,” Hoffman said. “I got to text my wife, check on how the twins were, relax a little bit as opposed to putting my phone down and she’s asking me what’s going on. It was a lot better to play like today and chill out. But what we did say to them was, ‘you can chill out, but play like you’re behind each time.’ We don’t want to go into tomorrow lackadaisical.”

New Canaan got on the board in the first as LaPolice reached first after being hit by a pitch. After sophomore Robbie Jones followed with a walk, senior co-captain Zach Smith drove home LaPolice with an RBI single, moving to Jones to third and taking second on the throw home. Senior co-captain Brandon Abate drove Jones home with a single to make it 2-0 Rams, moving Smith to third.

The Rams then pulled off a double steal to make it 3-0, as Abate swiped second with Smith taking home on the throw down. With one out, Kane Curtin drove a double to the fence in right-center to score Abate for a 4-0 New Canaan lead. After Thomas Williams was hit by a pitch, Giusti scored Curtin on a hit-and-run single, putting the Rams up 5-0.

After Giusti set the Red Devils down in order in the second, New Canaan scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the inning, as a Stratford error on a potential inning-ending double-play ball allowed two runs to score, extending the New Canaan lead to 7-0. The Rams tacked on another run as Giusti hit an RBI double that plated Matt Burger making it 8-0 after two innings.

Stratford scored a run in the fourth inning as three consecutive base hits with two outs cut the Rams lead to 8-1. Pelli was able to prevent further damage, ringing up a strikeout to end the inning and strand two Red Devil base runners.

New Canaan added some insurance in the bottom of the fifth as Giusti led off the inning with a single, his third hit of the day. LaPolice followed with another hit by pitch, moving Giusti to second. Robbie Jones then launched the first pitch of his at bat over the right-centerfield fence for a three-run home run, giving New Canaan an 11-1 lead.

“He’s been hitting the ball hard coming into today,” Hoffman said of Jones. “We just told him see it deep and swing like you know how to swing. And he obviously did.”

Stratford tacked on an unearned run in the top of the seventh to make it 11-2 New Canaan, but that was as close as the Red Devils would get.

With the win, Hoffman and the Rams are now focusing their sights on tomorrow’s showdown with Windsor.

“We have to play our game,” Hoffman said. “If we can rattle half the amount of hits we had today—seven, eight, nine hits—give David a few runs, I think there’s a good chance. But baseball is a funny game. We have our guy on the mound and we’ll see what happens.”

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