In one of the most dramatic days on the diamond in recent memory, the New Canaan Rams baseball and softball teams each pulled off improbable–and important–victories over Trumbull High School Wednesday night.
Alex LaPolice’s walkoff grand slam capped off an amazing comeback for New Canaan, who entered the 7th and final inning down 4-0. The Rams seemingly had no answers for Trumbull starter Avery Santos, who went into the seventh inning looking to close out the game having given up just five runs through the first six innings.
Santos, however, seemed to suddenly tire in the seventh and lose command of his pitches. Two New Canaan hits, a fielder’s choice, and a hit batter closed the gap to 4-1, loaded the bases and brought the potential winning run to the plate. After a potentially huge strikeout for Santos, Kane Curtin closed the gap to 4-2 with an RBI single. A catcher’s interference call made it 4-3, setting the stage for LaPolice.
“Alex had the approach we teach every day,” New Canaan head coach Mitch Hoffman told NewCanaanite.com. “His teammates gave him the chance and he capitalized on it.”
LaPolice turned on a hanging curveball and pandemonium ensued at Mead Park.
“The kids said I jumped higher than they have ever seen,” Hoffman said. “Greatest ending I’ve ever seen.”
The win vaulted the 12-5 Rams over Trumbull and Darien into third place in the FCIAC, as New Canaan owns the tiebreaker over both teams. The Rams travel to Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday to take on the 10-7 Falcons in the regular season finale.
Meanwhile up in Trumbull, the softball team was embroiled in dramatics of their own. Head coach Danielle Simoneau’s squad came into their matchup against the Golden Eagles one game ahead of Danbury for the 8th and final spot in the FCIAC playoffs with two games left. Although the Rams owned the tiebreaker against the Hatters, Danbury was set up with far more favorable matchups against 3-12 Wilton and 0-13 Bassick.
In short, New Canaan needed to beat 11-5 Trumbull or 13-3 Ludlowe to guarantee a postseason berth.
The Rams jumped out to an early lead with 3 runs in the second inning. Trumbull would close the gap to 3-2 before New Canaan extended to a 5-2 lead courtesy of Claire Conley’s home run in the top of the fourth, one of three hits on the day for the sophomore.
“The girls are better when they get up there and have a good first at bat,” Simoneau said. “Claire got up her first at bat and hit a shot. Once she did that I knew Claire was going to be on for the rest of the day.”
Trumbull would add a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-3 Rams, but New Canaan seemingly put the game away with a six-run outburst in the sixth inning. Junior Jamie Schlim had the big hit for New Canaan with a bases-clearing triple, and as the game moved to the bottom of the sixth, the Rams had an 11-3 lead. The New Canaan FCIAC playoff ticket was all but punched.
Trumbull, however, was not playing the part of conductor.
Three runs in the bottom of the sixth cut the New Canaan lead to 11-6. Trumbull added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh, and had runners at second and third when Taylor Brown ripped a two-out triple. The tying run was suddenly 60 feet away.
New Canaan starter Ali Reilly got two quick strikes on the next Trumbull hitter, Kristine Szabo, who then surprised almost everyone when she squared to bunt.
“At first I thought I had the count wrong,” Simoneau said. “Maybe it was supposed to be a suicide squeeze…I don’t know.”
Instead, the ball went foul for Reilly’s sixth and final strikeout, ending the game and clinching a berth for the defending FCIAC champs.
“Getting back to the postseason is definitely a great feeling,” Simoneau said. “The girls truly did come together and play as a team. It’s not easy when you have new faces, not only on the team but in school as well. They hit some big potholes along the way, but we built them up when we were done with the game and moved on to the next game.”
The Rams will wrap up the regular season against Ludlowe on Friday at Waveny’s Orchard Field. Senior Night will actually be Senior Afternoon, as weather forced a start time change from 7 to 4pm.