It may be early in the season, but it is never too early to kick start the rivalry in the Battle of West Haven.
The calendar may have said April, but Monday afternoon’s contest between West Haven and cross-town rival Notre Dame had a postseason feel from the start.
In the end, it was all about pitching as West Haven’s Gianni Gambardella tossed a complete-game five-hitter, striking out 11 as West Haven topped the Green Knights 2-0 at Quigley Stadium in West Haven.
“Gianni was so sharp,” West Haven coach Ron Luneau said after his team improved to 2-0 on the year. “He really does look like all that he is built to be. He’s a very, very good high school pitcher. He’s a great high school baseball player. Let me tell you about the type of kid Gianni is. We gave him the game ball, but he gave it to Ray Gilbert because he said he saved him twice.”
Gambardella was on his game from the start, throwing 87 pitches, 62 for strikes. When the senior commit to Maine was not getting outs by way of strikeout, he relied on his defense which came up with several big plays throughout the contest.
The West Haven defense helped thwart a pair of Notre Dame rallies, denying at least a pair of potential runs in the fourth inning.
Trailing 1-0, Notre Dame’s Kevin Milewski led off with a single and Justin Coppola followed with a double to left. West Haven left fielder Ray Gilbert fired a strike to third baseman Dylan Supan as the cutoff, and Supan tagged out Milewski, who rounded third too far, for the first out.
“This is a huge win to start the season,” Gambardella said. “Everyone was making plays out in the field. Hats off to them in the field, a lot of great plays. We did the small things hitting-wise to score runs. Everyone was producing.”
With two outs, Ryan Cotjanle singled to left and Gilbert’s throw home to catcher Corey Coggins nipped Coppola at the plate to keep West Haven on top 1-0.
“We have to score when we have opportunities,” Notre Dame coach Don Martone said after his team fell to 0-2. “We have to make the routine plays. We did not do that today.”
The Green Knights never threatened again, getting only a one-out single by Nick Hunkele in the sixth the rest of the way. Gambardella finished his masterpiece with a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to end the game.
“I think Gilbert did a great job in left field,” Luneau said. “He was making throws. (Dylan) Supan put a tag on and our catcher did a great job putting tags on. I thought defensively we made the plays and that was the difference in the game.”
After stranding the bases loaded in the first inning, West Haven took a 1-0 lead in the second off Hunkele, who also pitched well, going five innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven, while walking five.
With two outs, freshman Evan Jones worked a walk, K.J. Harp was hit by a pitch, and Ty DeSanty singled to load the bases. Gambardella then walked to force in Jones with the only run the Westies needed.
“That game was a great game,” Luneau said. “They did a great job on the mound themselves. They are good pitchers themselves. We hung in there. Gianni hung in there. I always feel comfortable if we can get two or three runs with him on the mound and I know going into every game with him on the mound, we have a chance to win.”
The Westies left a pair of runners on in each of the third and fourth innings, before adding an insurance run in the seventh.
Gambardella led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice by Supan, and third on a single to left by Gilbert. Damian Gazzaneo reached on an error to plate Gambardella for a 2-0 lead.
“I thought (Hunkele) pitched well,” Martone said. “It is a new team and a new year. We are learning and we may have growing pains. We have to execute.”
The Green Knights also had a golden opportunity to strike in the first inning as Hunkele singled with one out and Milewski reached on an error. Gambardella escaped with a pair of strikeouts, keeping the game scoreless.
West Haven baseball team opened the season in impressive fashion with a 18-0 victory over Platt Tech in the season opener at Piurek Field in West Haven Saturday afternoon.
Harp led the offense with four hits, three runs scored and three runs batted in, DeSanty had three hits, two runs scored and two runs batted in, and Josh Trager and Coggins each had three hits and a run batted in. Gambardella had two hits and drove in three runs in the win.
Supan and Trager combined on the 3-hit shutout as Supan struck out five and allowed just one hit in two innings of work. Trager allowed two hits and struck out three in his three innings of work.
West Haven took control of the game, scoring nine times in the first inning and five more in the second for a 14-0 lead.
Harp opened the game with a single, DeSanty reached on an error and Gambardella delivered both with a triple to right. A single by Supan scored Gambardella, two Platt Tech errors scored three more runs, a single by Harp scored another, and a single to left by Gambardella score two more for a 9-0 advantage.
The Westies increased the lead in the second as Trager tripled to score Ray Gilbert, who reached on a walk, Corey Coggins singled to score Trager, and Harp tripled to score two more. When DeSanty doubled to score Harp, West Haven led 14-0.
The West Haven softball team opened the season with a 7-2 victory at Sheehan of Wallingford Monday afternoon.
Mia Rubirosa went the distance in the pitching circle, tossing a complete game, allowing four hits and two unearned runs, while walking two and striking out eight.
Rubirosa also made significant contributions at the plate she hit a long homer, drove in a pair of runs and scored twice. Shyanne Raccio had three hits, a run batted in, and a run scored, while Hannah Davey, Brianna Miller, and Paige Beurer each had a pair of hits in the win.
West Haven took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Rubirosa walked, stole second and scored on a single to center by Melanie Jimenez. Beurer followed with a single to center, and Raccio did the same to score Jimenez for a 2-0 lead.
Leading 2-1, West Haven failed to capitalize on its opportunities as the Westies stranded a runner on third in the third, and hit into a double play with two on in the fourth.
The Westies took a 4-1 lead with two runs in the sixth. Miller hit a two-out single to start the rally and Rubirosa followed with a long homer to left.
After Sheehan got a run back in the bottom of the inning, West Haven put the game away with three runs in the seventh.
Beurer led off with a single to center, Raccio doubled to left to put a pair in scoring position, before Beurer scored on a passed ball, and a wild pitch scored Raccio. Davey delivered the final run of the inning as her single scored Juliana Petruzziello for a 7-2 lead.
The West Haven girls lacrosse team opened the season with a 7-5 loss against North Haven at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Saturday afternoon. Despite a valiant effort, the Westies were hurt by two late goals in the defeat.
Amber Militrano made 16 saves in the loss. The Westies had five different players in the scoring column as Olyvia O’Mara and Julia Tsakonas each led the way with a pair of goals. Caitlin Welch also scored once.
Melissa Tsakonas added three assists and Madison Lentine also picked up a helper in the season opener. Sophia Dorio led North Haven with four goals.
The West Haven boys tennis team opened the season with a 5-2 loss at Foran Monday afternoon. West Haven’s wins came in doubles play.
West Haven’s second seed of Johnny Chen and Yousef Khan defeated Steven Mingrone and Johann Chen 6-4, 6-3, while third-seeded Javon Huang and Abdourahim Mbengue topped Foran’s Noah Held and John Brown 5-6, 6-1, 10-8. Foran’s top seed of Keith Pokornowski and Kyle Pokornowski topped West Haven’s Robert Vets and Eshwar Balakumar 6-0, 6-1.
Foran swept singles play as top-seeded Ryan Purviance defeated West Haven’s Miguel Torres 7-5, 6-1, and second-seeded Arush Puri topped Benjamin Sager of West Haven 6-2, 4-6, 10-3. Third-seeded Danny Ruano of Foran defeated Brandon Sihaphong 6-0, 6-2, and fourth-seeded Tristan Adorno of Foran topped Ali Hanza 6-1, 6-0.
For all your West Haven sporting news throughout the year, including game articles by Mike Madera, highlights, photos and more, visit www.westieblue.com.