Conard beats Hall in 11 innings, earning a season sweep of its crosstown rival as well as the 2018 Mayor’s Cup.
By Marlon Pitter. Photos by Ronni Newton
Although he posted a strong performance on the mound, Dominic Niman didn’t win the Mayor’s Cup for Conard as a pitcher.
Instead, he found a way to do it at the plate in an 11-inning, 3-2 walk-off victory over Hall at the University of Hartford’s Fiondella Field on Monday afternoon.
Niman, who started the game for the Chieftains, drove in the winning run on a two-out single that brought Nick Gaglioti home from third base. Gaglioti hit a triple to put himself in scoring position, setting up Niman for the game-winning at-bat in the annual trophy game between the two West Hartford schools.
Niman also tallied eight strikeouts, allowing five walks, three hits and two earned runs over 6.2 innings of work.
“It was just an exciting game to watch,” Conard head coach Sanjay Rambhia said of the low-scoring affair. “You love games like this when you are a baseball guy.”
With Hall out of the state tournament picture, Rambhia said he told the team to expect the Warriors’ best shot in the rivalry matchup.
“Our records don’t matter,” he said. “We knew – and I talked to the boys today – since Hall’s not making the playoffs this year, this is their playoff game. We knew that they were gonna come with 100 percent effort today – 200 percent effort – because this was their end-all, and so they played like that. Both teams deserved to win the game today.”
The Chieftains were in position to win the game four innings earlier, with the based loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Colby Jones hit a lead-off triple, and Hall intentionally walked the next two batters to load the bases.
Chase Jeter, who tossed seven full innings and struck out 12 batters in his last game as a Warrior, pitched himself out of the jam to push the game to extras. Jeter struck out two of the next three batters and assisted a force out at the plate on a safety squeeze attempt.
“[Andrew Ferrucci], I thought, put a nice bunt down,” said Rambhia. “It just died, and on this type of turf, usually, the ball rolls. If that ball rolls another few feet, we win the game. I didn’t expect a bunt on a turf field to die like that.”
Jeff LaRosa hit a two-out triple in the bottom of the eighth, but the Chieftains stranded him as Jones subsequently grounded out to second. Anthony Carabello walked to get on base, but he was picked off between first and second during LaRosa’s at-bat.
The Chieftains tried to put together another two-out rally in the bottom of the 10th inning, but it was short-lived after Matt Langevin singled up the middle of the field. Carabello popped out to second to end the inning.
The Warriors did not threaten to score after regulation until the top of the 11th inning as Alex Dobbins hit a double to left field to get in scoring position with one out. Hall could not capitalize, however, as Matt Beazoglou allowed just one hit and struck out three batters over 4.1 innings, earning the win in relief of Niman.
Conard jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the second inning, but the two starters settled in, pitching four straight shutout innings moving forward. Niman took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but Andrew Nicklas ended it with a two-out triple to center field.
Hall scored twice in the top of the seventh on an RBI single and a sacrifice fly – caught in foul territory – forcing the Chieftains to bat once more.
Conard improves to 12-7 and sweeps the season series against the Warriors with the win. The Chieftains will conclude their regular season at home on Wednesday against Enfield as they prepare for the state tournament.
“We have a team that’s got a tremendous number of players with varsity experience, and that helps,” Rambhia said. “When I first took over, we didn’t have that experience. At every single position you’ve got guys who have played for multiple years, that have understanding of the game, that play at a high level…”
Hall falls to 4-15 to end the season, but head coach Nick Marsh said the team played its best games down the stretch.
“One of our goals was going to be to play our best baseball at the end of the season, and ideally you want to be carrying that into the playoffs,” Marsh said. “When you have a losing record like that, it’s real easy to put your head in the sand, and I think we’ve kind of focused in on doing what we need to do.”
While it was a down year for Hall, Marsh remains optimistic in the future of Warrior baseball.
“We’ve talked to the older guys about being an example for the younger guys,” he said. “We have a large junior class and a very talented sophomore class, and we’ve got some good players coming up through the pipeline, so we want to make sure we set an example for them going forward because we’re going to be playing winning baseball here at Hall. It’s just a matter of time.”
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