Wilton Legion team earns spot in state tourney

Chris Tienken and the Wilton American Legion senior team have qualified for the state tourney. — JB Cozens photo
Chris Tienken and the Wilton American Legion senior team have qualified for the state tourney. — JB Cozens photo

The Wilton Post 86 American Legion senior (19U) baseball team is heading to the postseason.

Wilton secured a berth in the state tournament with its 3-1 victory over Trumbull Post 141 in a Zone 4 game last Friday night in Trumbull.

After ending the regular season with a 1-0 win over Ridgefield last night, Wilton will take an 18-6 record and a five-game winning streak into the state tourney, which begins Saturday. Post 86 finished second behind Stamford in Zone 4; the top-four teams qualify for states.

It was Ryan Gabriele (2-1) who stepped to the fore against Trumbull, as the crafty lefty navigated his way through six and two-thirds innings of one-run ball, constantly escaping damage by negating eight Post 141 hits. It was a performance that was as gritty as it was clutch.

Gabriele got help when Wilton scored all of its runs in the third inning. A leadoff walk to Andrew Weinbrun, a sacrifice bunt by Ben Olson, and a base hit up the middle by Collin Kahal put runners at the corners.

A second out jeopardized the rally, but a walk to Jack DiNanno brought Cole Judelson to the plate, and the big, right-handed designated hitter delivered. Judelson rode an outside pitch to right field, whacking a one-bounce line drive to the fence in right field for a bases-clearing double and a 3-0 Wilton lead.

Gabriele ran into trouble in the fourth inning when he gave up an RBI groundout with the bases loaded. He was able to get the third out by stranding a pair of runners in scoring position.

The fifth inning went by harmlessly, and Gabriele’s infield defense helped him in the sixth with an inning-ending double play. The seventh inning began with two quick Trumbull outs, but then a walk left Gabriele at his pitch-count limit.

Ryan Orefice, who along with Weibrun has been a much-appreciated addition from Weston, relieved Gabriele and walked a batter as well. But with the tying runs on base, Orefice was up to the task.

On a comebacker to the mound, Gabriele’s throw sailed high, but first baseman Olson had the height to make the play, leaping off the bag for the catch. He then had time to touch the base for the final out.

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