Extra-inning win sends Ridgefield to first-ever state title game
One of Ridgefield's High oldest varsity sports teams is going to its first state championship game.
Brandon Grizzaffi sprinted home with the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Ridgefield baseball team defeated Amity, 2-1, in the Class LL state semifinals Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.
The third-seeded Tigers (20-5) will now face fourth-seed Cheshire in the title game Saturday at noon at Palmer Field in Middletown. Cheshire edged top-seed Fairfield Prep, 5-4, (also in 10 innings) in the first semifinal Wednesday at Municipal Stadium.
After each team squandered scoring chances in extra innings, Ridgefield got the win in an unlikely manner. Matt Restivo led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and went to second on Alex Price's sacrifice bunt. Grizzaffi came in to run for Restivo and went to third base on a wild pitch before scoring on a second straight wild pitch with two outs and Pete Columbia batting.
Although he didn't get the victory, Price was a major reason why Ridgefield won the game. The senior left-hander pitched eight and two-thirds innings, allowing one run on four hits while walking two batters and striking out six.
But after throwing 109 pitches, Price departed with two outs in the top of the ninth and a runner on first base. Reliever Matt DeLuca, who was coming off a one-hitter in the Tigers' 1-0 quarterfinal win over Newtown, got a strikeout to end the threat. DeLuca then kept Amity scoreless in the top of the 10th.
"I wanted to throw until I physically couldn't, because mentally I knew I could keep fighting," said Price. "At the end, coach [Paul] Fabbri thought it was the best move for the team to have DeLuca close out the game, and I can't argue with the result."
Amity had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the 10th against DeLuca. Jared Smith singled and stole second base, going to third when the throw went into the outfield. But DeLuca got a strikeout to keep the game tied at 1-1.
Ridgefield took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Stamatis hit a one-out single and went to third on Columbia's single. Stamatis then scored on Quinn McDonald's sacrifice fly. Nick Hanna followed with a single and Nick Cullinan walked to load the bases with two outs, but Amity starter John Lumpinski got a strikeout to limit the Tigers to one run.
The Spartans tied the game with a run in the top of the fourth. Jack Balloca led off with a single and stole second before scoring on Pat Winkel's RBI single.
Ridgefield nearly scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Hanna reached on an error and went to second on the play. Cullinan followed with a single, but Hanna was thrown out at the plate.
That was the closest either team came to taking the lead until the bottom of the 10th, when Grizzaffi crossed home plate and Ridgefield began its celebration.
"We have a special group of seniors this year who bought into the dream of playing in a state championship months ago," said Hanna. "To actually be going there is a fairytale ending to an incredible season."
Press Sports Correspondent Paul Kim contributed reporting to this story.