Zandri uses late rally to defend softball title
For the third time in four years, Zandri Construction won a championship in the Ridgefield Men’s Softball League.
This one, though, had a much higher level of difficulty and unlikeliness.
Down to its final at-bat and trailing 11-5, Zandri scored eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 13-11 lead over Redding Nursery in the third and deciding game of the best-of-three championship series Aug. 8 at the old high school.
Redding Nursery got one run back and had the tying run on third base (and the go-ahead run on first base) with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But Zandri pitcher Tim Debany got his glove on a hard-hit grounder and the ball deflected to infielder John Maiolo, who threw to second for a force-out to secure Zandri’s 13-12 victory.
“If he doesn’t touch that ball it goes through the middle and ties the game,” said Zandri manager Rich Marra about Debany. “It would have been 13-13 and Redding (Nursery) would have still been batting with a chance to win the game.”
The comeback allowed Zandri to add its third title in four years as a team. Zandri won A Division championships in 2015 and last season and lost to Tony’s Deli in the finals in 2016.
The league condensed from two divisions (A and B) to one division for this season.
Zandri won the opening game by a score of 9-5 last Wednesday, but Redding Nursery stayed alive with a 20-19 triumph in the second game.
When Redding Nursery took an 8-0 lead through four innings in the third game, Zandri’s chances of defending its title looked bleaker than a basement apartment. A five-run rally in the top of the fifth — featuring timely hits from Tim Gillis, JT Papa, Debany, and Jason Marra — cut Zandri’s deficit to 8-5, but Redding Nursery answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to go ahead 11-5.
After neither team scored in the sixth inning, Zandri staged its game-winning comeback in the top of the seventh. Evan Kenagy began the rally with a double, and successive hits from Cal Meachem, Tim Cozens, JT Papa, Debany, Jason Marra, and Bryce Maher tied the game at 11-11. Mike Jamieson then blasted a two-run homer to give Zandri a 13-11 lead.
Redding Nursery got within one run in the bottom of the seventh before Zandri ended the game on the ground ball that deflected off Debany’s glove to Maiolo for the force play.
“Both of these teams can really hit,” said Rich Marra. “I wasn’t surprised at the amount of runs scored during the three games or that no lead seemed safe.”
With 14 total runs, the first game of the championship series was relatively low scoring.
Jamieson, Debany, Chip Papa, Cozens, and Meachem all had key hits that led to a four-run sixth inning for Zandri en route to its 9-5 win.
Pitcher Stef Zandri held Redding Nursery in check with help from spectacular outfield play by Chip Papa, Meachem and Jason Marra.
In game two, Redding Nursery’s bats did the damage. Ray Duda, Mike Helmus and Devin Martin all homered as Redding Nursery opened an 11-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Zandri got hits from Maiolo, Jason Marra, Maher, Jamieson, Debany, Tom DeMarco, Kenagy, Chip Papa, Cozens, and Meachem to close within one run before Redding Nursery got the final out to preserve its 20-19 triumph and sent the series to a third game.
Notes: Jamieson was named as the Most Valuable Player of the finals.
The core group of the Zandri Construction team is comprised of players from the Ridgefield High School Class of 2013.