In the hour-long drive it took the West Haven baseball team to travel to Manchester to open the Class LL state tournament, Gianni Gambardella and his senior teammates had plenty of time to think. The obvious thought was the game could be their last in a West Haven uniform.
The University of Maine-bound senior was not going to let that happen. In a dominant performance, Gambardella allowed just two hits and struck out 12 on the mound, and drove in the only run of the contest in the seventh as 26th-seeded West Haven upset No.7 Manchester, 1-0, in Manchester in the first round.
“Everyone had it in their minds, this could have been our last high school game,” Gambardella said. “We all came out and played as hard as we could. We made a couple of errors in the field, but that will happen. We bounced back, and in the later innings, we got fired up.”
Gambardella never gave in, especially when Manchester had runners on base. The senior got stronger, stranding five on base, including four in scoring position.
“What an effort by Gianni,” West Haven coach Ron Luneau said. “Twelve strikeouts. He gets the winning hit. John Lindsay, great two-hit effort by him. He hasn’t even played baseball in the last three years. I just wish we put more meaningful balls in play. I wish we executed our bunts better. But again, we squeezed out a W against a pretty good team, a pretty powerful team. They are very scrappy. Their pitcher (Mason Cycenas-Heimer) pitched great. I tip my cap to him.”
With the game scoreless in the seventh, West Haven scored the only run it needed.
Damian Gazzaneo was hit by a pitch, but Manchester turned a bunt by Evan Jones into a force out at second. With two outs, Gambardella ripped a long drive off the fence in center to score Jones for a 1-0 lead.
“I am very proud of our kids,” Luneau said. “On the bus, I just said leave your heart on the field. Whether we won or lost, I thought we played hard. That’s all I can ask for.”
The hit by Gambardella picked up a West Haven team which committed three errors and could not come up with a big hit off Manchester ace Mason Cycenas-Heimer.
The Westies left a pair of runners on in the first and second innings, and single runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings.
Gambardella made sure to pick up his team’s offense as he got the final out of the second after Manchester put runners on the corners with a strikeout.
Gambardella overcame another error in the third, by snaring a line drive and turning it into an inning-ending double play.
“This was really the first game back that I had that two or three pitch mix,” Gambardella said. “The last two or three starts I was struggling with my curve ball. I wasn’t doing as good as I did today, and you could see that.”
With a runner on third in the fifth, Gambardella got a fly out to left to end the threat. The Westie ace had to overcome one more obstacle as a strikeout and wild pitch allowed the first runner of the sixth to reach. A stolen base and a ground out later saw Manchester with the go-ahead run at third, but Gambardella got a ground out back to the mound to end the threat.
“It feels great,” Gambardella said. “We have another big game tomorrow, so we have to come prepared.”
The West Haven ace sealed the win by retiring the side in order in the seventh.
“His change was working pretty well,” Luneau said of Gambardella. “I think he got better as the game went on. He bared down. That’s why he is going to the University of Maine. He can do that.”
Gambardella and John Lindsay led the West Haven offense with two hits apiece.
The season has come to an end for the West Haven baseball team. Unable to come up with a key hit, West Haven fell in second round action to 10th-seeded Trumbull, 3-0, at Trumbull High the next day.
With the loss, No. 26 West Haven closes the season with an 11-11 record.
Dylan Supan went the distance for West Haven, tossing a complete-game 8-hitter, allowing three earned runs. Supan struck out six and did not walk a batter.
West Haven will remember this contest as one of missed opportunities. The Westies stranded a pair of runners in four of the seven innings played.
The missed opportunities started early as Tyler DeSanty singled to lead off the game and Gambardella followed with a walk, but West Haven could not capitalize.
After Trumbull got a two-out hit to score a pair in the bottom of the first, West Haven stranded two more in the second. A double play erased a runner in the third, before Trumbull took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
The Westies had another opportunity to score in the fourth as Lindsay reached on an error and KJ Harp walked. A ground out by Corey Coggins moved a pair to scoring position, but both were stranded.
West Haven again had another opportunity in the sixth when Lindsay opened with a walk, and Coggins singled with one out, but the Westies again could not push a run across.
With the season on the line, West Haven failed to go down quietly in the seventh. Gambardella reached on an error with one out, but two ground outs ended the West Haven season.
The West Haven softball team got off to a slow start to the Class LL state tournament, but it was how the game finished which was all that mattered.
Trailing 2-0, No. 8 West Haven scored three times in the third, then added a pair of runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to defeat No. 25 Newington, 7-2, in the opening round of the state tournament at Biondi Field.
Shyanne Raccio led an 11-hit attack with three hits, two runs batted in, and a run scored, Mia Rubirosa had two hits, scored three times, and drove in a run, while Brianna Miller added a pair of hits and scored once.
Rubirosa also pitched well, going the distance and allowing just two hits and no earned runs, while walking two and striking out seven.
The Westies took the lead for good in the third with three runs for a 3-2 advantage. Rubirosa walked with one out, Paige Beurer followed with a two-out walk, and a single by Raccio scored Rubirosa to cut the deficit in half. Juliana Petruzziello followed with a double to left, scoring Beurer and Raccio for a 3-2 lead.
West Haven extended the lead to 5-2 in the fifth as Rubirosa, Miller, Beurer and Raccio opened the inning with singles. Beurer’s single scored Rubirosa, and Miller scored as part of a double steal attempt.
A two-out rally in the sixth sealed the victory for West Haven as Rubirosa singled to score Natalie Gallo. Following a single by Miller and a walk to Beurer, Raccio singled to score Rubirosa.
The season continued for the West Haven softball team. Falling behind early, eighth-ranked West Haven rallied to top No. 24 Staples, 6-5.
Rubirosa went the distance, allowing two earned runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out six.
Raccio led the way with three hits, two runs scored and a run batted, while Rubirosa had two hits and a run scored, and Gianna Carrano had two hits and a run batted in.
Trailing 3-0 after a half inning, West Haven rallied to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning. Rubirosa led off with a double, Brianna Miller was hit by a pitch, and Raccio doubled with one out to score Rubirosa. Juliana Petruzziello followed with a two-run single to even the game, and Hannah Davey singled with two outs to score Petruzziello for a 4-3 lead.
After Staples evened the game in the top of the third, West Haven pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning when Hannah Burrows led off with a double, Hannah Davey sacrificed Burrows to third, and Melanie Jimenez grounded out to score Burrows.
West Haven increased the lead to 6-4 in the fourth as Raccio led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Carrano.
Staples scored once in the seventh, but Rubirosa got a pop out to send West Haven to the quarterfinals.
The season for the West Haven softball team has come to a bitter end. Leading by two runs with six outs to go, eighth-seeded West Haven could not get the final out.
Top-seeded Danbury scored the tying run on a very close play in what could have been the final out of the game, before using a walk-off homer in the eleventh to end the dream season for the Westies in a 5-2 final.
West Haven led 2-1 going into the seventh, but Danbury used a one-out single, a stolen base, and a wild pitch to put the tying run on third with one out. Rubirosa got a ground out for the second out, but a slow grounder to Beurer at short was just beaten out, allowing the tying run to score.
West Haven had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the eighth as Hannah Davey walked with two outs and Melanie Jimenez singled, but Rubirosa was retired on a grounder to third to end the frame.
The Westies had another opportunity to take the lead in the eleventh, as Rubirosa singled with two outs and Miller walked, but Beurer flied to center to end the inning.
West Haven took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning as Davey reached on an error, and pinch-runner Gallo advanced to second on a sacrifice by Jimenez. Rubirosa singled to put runners on the corners, and Miller reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases.
Walks to Beurer and Raccio scored Gallo and Rubirosa for a 2-0 lead, but the Westies could not push across another run.
For all your West Haven sporting news throughout the year, including game articles by Mike Madera, highlights, photos and more, visit www.westieblue.com.