Trumbull High’s Bryan Kraus was well aware of what was at stake when he came out of the bullpen to preserve his team’s one-run lead over Ridgefield in a Class LL first-round state tournament game Wednesday.
“Yes, it was all hands-on-deck,” said Kraus, a right-handed sophomore who relieved with no outs in the top of the fourth and a runner on first. “Coach (Phil Pacelli) told me to stay loose and I was ready when they needed me. My changeup was working. There are 13 seniors on this team, and it was important to keep the season going.”
Kraus did his part, retiring nine-of-10 batters to get the save in Trumbull’s 2-1 victory. The 13th-seeded Eagles will now play fourth-seed South Windsor in a second-round game Thursday.
Ridgefield, the 20th seed, had defeated Trumbull by a score of 2-0 in the regular season. The Tigers’ Matt DeLuca pitched the shutout in that game and was on the mound for Wednesday’s rematch.
“We knew that we were going to have to beat a good pitcher and we did just enough,” said Pacelli. “We had two sophomores on the mound today (Andrew Harvey and Kraus). It’s what Bryan has been doing for us all year. He is our toughest reliever. He gets in there and gets it done. We had the timely hitting from Kevin Bruggeman and Ray Leonzi.
Ridgefield went ahead with a run in the top of the second. An inning-opening error was followed by Thomas Gioffre’s single, putting two runners on base. Harvey got a strikeout before Sean Livingstone’s sacrifice fly gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Bruggeman, who threw out a runner out attempting to steal and made a fine play on a foul pop, tied the game with a single to right in the third. DeLuca allowed infield hits by Leonzi and Tim Lojko prior to Bruggeman’s RBI base hit.
Trumbull’s Luke Masiuk singled hard to left on the first pitch in the home fourth. DeLuca retired the next two batters, with center fielder John Briody robbing Greg Kaufmann of extra bases and an RBI with a diving catch in left-center. But on a 3-2 count, Leonzi came through with a single that put Trumbull ahead, 2-1.
“I expected it to be a pitchers’ duel with Matt DeLuca for us and because they have several solid pitchers,” Ridgefield interim coach Mike Scarlett said. “We thought it would be 1-0, 2-1. Early on we executed just like we had hoped. They got a couple of key hits at the end and that was it.”
Briody opened the game with a single but was thrown out trying to steal by Bruggeman. Nick Cullinan then drew a walk only to be left stranded.
In the Ridgefield third, Cullinan and Matt Restivo worked one-out walks. Harvey turned a come-backer into a force out at third, and first baseman Chris Briganti went into foul territory to glove the final out.
Harvey set the Tigers down in order in the third, but Alex Hanna had a pinch-hit single to start the fifth. Kraus got the next out himself, then enticed a pop-up and a groundout to Brian Hance at second.
Lojko’s second hit began the Trumbull fifth. Right fielder Cole Blackwell’s great play in foul territory dampened the flame, and Livingstone put it out with a caught-stealing throw to Colin LaCoille covering at second.
Kraus struck out the first two batters in the seventh. Hanna kept Ridgefield hopes alive with a two-strike single, but Kraus got a strikeout to end the game.
Notes: Lojko and Leonzi each had two hits for Trumbull. Bruggeman, Masiuk, and Briganti added one hit apiece.
Hanna had two singles for Ridgefield, which ended the season with a 12-9 record. Gioffre and Briody had the other hits.