“It wasn’t just a good win,” said an exuberant head coach Tim Eagen. “It was a great one.”
Eagen had reason to be enthused: He had just watched his unbeaten Wilton High baseball team earn a stunning, 3-2 walk-off win at home over previously undefeated Westhill on Friday.
“Our guys played hard for seven full innings,” said Eagen.“They’re battlers and they’re finding ways to win.”
Wilton (5-0) needed to use every ounce of fight it had to beat the Vikings (5-1), who are considered one of the upper-echelon FCIAC teams this season. Furthermore, Westhill was throwing its ace, Montana Semmel, widely considered one of the top three pitchers in the league.
There were pro scouts out, too, purportedly to look at Westhill centerfielder Bobby Zmarzlak. And he didn’t disappoint as he led off the top of the first inning with a long double to left. Noah Skaug’s sacrifice bunt, enhanced by an infield throwing error, scored Zmarzlak.
When a one-out walk, a double steal, and a dropped third strike loaded the bases, the Vikings looked to break the game open according to their winning script. They didn’t reckon on the unscripted Mike Angerame.
A senior left-hander, Angerame was not only starting for Wilton but also making his first-ever varsity pitching appearance ever. He dug in and got a line-drive infield out and an inning-ending fly ball to center, limiting Westhill to one run.
“I threw a good bull pen (session) yesterday and (pitching) coach (Mark) Ketley told me I would pitch today,” Angerame said. “I was really excited until right up before the game started. I know it was shaky out there to start but I felt good.”
Angerame got two quick outs to start the second but then it was Zmarzlak causing trouble again, lining a single to left, stealing second, and then coming home on Skaug’s base hit (aided by some suspect fielding).
But after that Angerame got the third out and then held the vaunted Westhill attack at bay for three-and-a-third innings. It wasn’t pretty. The only three-batter inning Angerame had came when catcher Cole Judelson threw out a base runner attempting to steal in the fourth. But Angerame gave his teammates a chance to get back in the game and, in the fifth inning, they did.
Through the first four innings, Semmel had things his way, giving up just one hit while striking out five batters and allowing only two runners to reach base. That changed in the fifth, even though Semmel continued to throw well.
Sam Strazza began the inning by reaching first base on a comebacker that Semmel had trouble fielding. Strazza stole second and then raced home on Chris Tienken’s single over first base. When the throw from the outfield went awry, Tienken motored to third. Then, with two outs, a poor throw on Drew Phillips’ ground ball allowed Tienken to scamper home with the tying run.
Angerame got the first Westhill batter in the top of the sixth, but a solid single to left brought on Ethan Leinberger, who threw a wild pitch, moving the runner to second. Undeterred, Leinberger retired the next batter, issued a judiciously called intentional walk to Zmarzlak, and got an infield ground ball for the third out.
John Gerard, on in relief of Semmel, set the Warriors down in order in the bottom of the sixth, and Leinberger — with help from a diving two-out catch in shallow center from Tienken — blanked Westhill in the seventh.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Wilton’s Lucas Uriarte drove a ball down the right-field line that dropped for a base hit. The ball was bobbled into foul territory, allowing Uriarte to reach second. He then alertly raced to third on a pitch blocked in the dirt.
Now the infield was drawn in, and it was Tienken again the man-of-the-hour at the plate. He lifted a pitch just over the second baseman’s head and barely in front of the charging right fielder. The ball dropped harmlessly to the ground, Uriarte scored, and Wilton had its biggest win of the young season.
“The guys all got behind me, supporting me,” Tienken said. “There’s nothing better than to get a hit like that and look back and see all of them cheering.”
“Overall, it’s one the best wins we’ve had,” said Ketley. “We have a lot of games coming up and it was Mike Angerame’s time. He had his chance and a chance to do something with it. He stepped up and I’m really happy for him.”
Notes: Wilton was scheduled to face Daniel Hand in a non-conference game Saturday at home, but the contest was postponed until sometime later this season.