Baseball: Amity defeats Warde in seventh for historic win

Amity High's Eli Oliphant pitched the Spartans to their record fourth consecutive Class LL state title. — David G. Whithan photos

Amity High’s Eli Oliphant pitched the Spartans to their record fourth consecutive Class LL state title. — David G. Whithan photos

The Amity High baseball team won its history making fourth straight Class LL title with a 4-3 victory over Fairfield Warde at Palmer Field in Middletown on Saturday.

Coach Sal Coppola’s top-seeded Spartans pushed across the winning run on a bases-loaded walk to Max Scheps with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to overcome coach Brett Conners’ 10th-seeded Mustangs.

“If you think about the possibility of that happening (four straight titles), it’s impossible,” Coppola said. ”Four, I don’t know how that happens.”

Conners said, “(Having a runner on third and one out) Forced us to create force-outs. We did a great job getting the second out. Unfortunately, that was the last play of game. The kids fought hard. This was a great

Joey Deutsch played a crowd-pleasing third base for the Mustangs.

Joey Deutsch played a crowd-pleasing third base for the Mustangs.

Class LL state championship game, that’s for sure.”

“I can feel the pain, we lost our first two (title games) and the first one in horrible fashion. So, I understand what it feels like to lose like that,” Coppola said.

“It was a close game. Obviously, I think he’s going to be proud of his kids. it was a great effort by his kids, they didn’t quit the whole game.”

Warde trailed 3-0 after one inning, but tied the game on Giacomo Brancato’s three-run homer to left-center in the top of the sixth.

The first inning was played in a steady rain.

Despite getting two hits, Warde went down in order — sort of.

Giacome Brancato reaches home plate after his three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning tied the game. — David. G. Whitham photo

Giacomo Brancato reaches home plate after his three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning tied the game.

Warde received hits from Joey Deutsch and Brancato off the Spartans’ Eli Oliphant in the top of the frame, only to be turned back by a 5-4-3 double play and Oliphant’s pickoff move to first base.

Amity jumped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning, despite striking out four times.

With the home plate umpire, Mustang catch Dan DeBarolomeo and pitcher Reece Maniscalco running a relay of dry baseball on nearly every pitch, Andy Hague walked, Chris Winkel beat out a bunt single and Pat Winkle walked.

After a visit to the mound by Conners, the right-handed Maniscalco struck out Brian Ronai and John Nolan, before Oliphant drove a two-strike pitch into the gap in right-center for a two-run double and a three-run lead.

Maniscalco issued a walk and then struck out the next two batters (the first was dropped and resulted in a throwing error) to leave the bases loaded. He threw 42 pitches in the inning.

With the deluge of rain showing no signs of letting up, the game was suspended and both teams sent to their dugouts.

When play resumed 1:47 later, both pitchers returned to the mound.

Reece Maniscalco pitched five straight shutout innings.

Reece Maniscalco pitched five straight shutout innings.

Maniscalco would set down eight straight batters before Teddy Hague singled with one out in the fourth. He was left stranded on Andy Hague’s sinking liner to Brancato in center field.

“You have to battle the elements and play the game,” Conners said about starting the game in the rain. “Can’t make excuses, we just have to go out and play our game to the best we can play.

“Reece was able to stay locked in forget about what happened and move forward. That’s all we can ask for. He gave a great effort.”

Coppola said: “That was tough for both pitchers to come back and they both did a great job. That (first inning) was huge for us, and demoralizing for them.

“It looked like the game was under control until that one inning (Brancato’s homer). He regrouped and was great.”

Deutsch had the stands buzzing with his play at third base during this stretch.

The senior accounted for five straight outs, four on assists and one on a line drive in the third and fourth innings.

He robbed Ronai of a single to open the third when he dove to his left, regained his feet, and threw to John Natoli for the out. Then came the liner, followed by a spinning stop and throw on Oliphant’s smash.

He made a sliding snatch on Nolan’s grounder to open the fourth and then scooped Colin Beaulieu’s low liner for the second out.

“I’ll tell you what, the third baseman single-handedly kept them in the game,” Coppola said. “We hit like four or five shots. Every play, I was like ‘one time get one on for us,’ so that we could steal. We have a really quick team and we didn’t get an opportunity because he made every play.”

Oliphant, meanwhile, gave up a two-out single on Zavier Espinal’s liner off Chris Winkel’s glove with one out in the second. He retired the next seven batters.

Natoli opened the fifth with a single, but was erased on a delayed steal, with Pat Winkel throwing to Andy Hague for the out.

Bobby Lazar opened the Warde sixth with a single to left, the Mustangs’ fifth hit.

Owen Buhrendorf hit into a force play, hustling to beat out a double play throw from Romai at short.

Deutsch then hit a fly ball to right that Teddy Hague had trouble tracking. The ball went off his glove and Warde had runners on first and second.

Oliphant notched his fifth strikeout, before Brancato hammered a 3-1 pitch into the trees in left-center field to tie the game.

“It was exciting,” Conners said. “We were waiting for our big inning. Typically in a baseball game you have your big inning, your moment, and that was ours. We were able to capitalize and tie the game.”

Coppola said: “That drove a knife through me because we had to pitch to him. We have a good hitter coming up (Maniscalco) behind him and didn’t want to put the tying run on first base. (It’s) Keep your fingers crossed and hope he pops it up. He hit it about 400 feet, that was tough.”

Amity left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth.

Nolan singled for Amity’s fourth hit, but Maniscalco recorded his first strikeout since the first inning.

With pinch-runner Matt Sabitsky going on the pitch, Scheps dumped the ball into right field off Alex Steele’s glove.

Sabitsky had to check up on the supposed catch, and was forced out at second.

Beaulieu singled down the left field line and pinch-hitter Rohan Patel walked on a 3-2 pitch to fill the bags.

Jack Myers at shortstop threw out Andy Hague to end the threat.

Warde got the go-ahead run on base in the seventh.

Espinel worked Oliphant for his only walk and pinch-runner Quinn Hermann went to second on DeBartolomeo’s sacrifice bunt.

Oliphant notched his sixth strikeout and got a roller to Ronai at short to leave the runner on third.

Natoli came on in relief for Warde in the seventh.

Chris Winkel was hit by a pitch, but Natoli got Pat Winkel to fly out to Myers.

Chris Winkel forced the issue with a stolen base, and went to third when the pitch went off DeBartolemeo’s glove to the backstop.

Warde could walk one batter, and hope for the double play or walk two and play for force outs.

Ronai and Nolan were intentionally walked to bring Oliphant to the plate.

As if drawn up, he bounced out to Deutsch at third who fired home for the force out.

That brought Scheps to the plate.

With the count 2-1, Warde and Natoli didn’t get the strike they were looking for as Scheps didn’t swing and the umpire didn’t bite.

The 3-1 pitch went for ball four and Amity had its historic fourth consecutive title.

“These kids gave something for Fairfield Warde to be excited about, they gave something for the town of Fairfield to be excited about,” Conner said. “I’m just extremely proud of these kids,

They fought all season long. They’re tremendous kids to be around, and it’s sad that this is our last day together. I’m forever indebted to these guys. They fought and that’s all you can ask for.”

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