NEW CANAAN -- With starting senior shortstop Matt Toth forced to sit out Monday's Class L state tournament opener against No. 24 Wethersfield with a bruised orbital bone above his left eye, all New Canaan coach Mitch Hoffman wanted to do was find a way to get through the day.
The ninth-seeded Rams did just that, pulling out an improbable 5-4 victory in nine innings at Mead Park.
The defending Class L state champions were down to their final out trailing 4-2 with two down in the bottom of the seventh, but senior Dan Rajkowski delivered a game-tying, two-run single against Wethersfield starter Ryan Costello to send it into extra innings.
Senior Erik Jager won it for the Rams in the bottom of the ninth with a one-out single off left-handed reliever Alex Mullin. The Eagles walked senior Nick Cascione intentionally to load the bases and Jager wasted no time, drilling the first pitch he saw into left field.
Catcher Zach Smith doubled to lead off the ninth and scored the winning run for New Canaan.
"I wasn't looking to do anything special," Jagr said. "You're always looking for that first-pitch fastball. He came with it and I jumped on it. Last year we had a heck of a run. I'm not playing in college, so I didn't want this to be my last day playing baseball."
New Canaan (15-7) will have Toth back in the lineup on Tuesday when it travels to Manchester to face No. 8 Cheney Tech in the second round. Cheney Tech posted a 5-4 win against No. 25 Fitch.
"I told the guys, just get me through today," Hoffman said. "Not having Matt Toth at the beginning of the game was tough. We had to scratch and claw. But that's the makeup of this team. To win a game like this, that's what state championships are made of."
New Canaan used every trick in the book to get it done. The Rams used five pitchers, including infielder Brandon Abate, who started at shortstop, and freshman Robby Jones, who picked up the win after getting the final two outs in the ninth. New Canaan also had to use freshman Matt Lynch at short when Abate went in to pitch.
New Canaan scored twice in the third on RBI singles by Abate (2-for-5) and Smith (2-for-5). Wethersfield made it 2-1 on a home run by Luke Ocascio then took a 4-2 lead with three in the fifth on a three-run double by Costello.
Costello threw 123 pitches before leaving in the ninth, allowing nine hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
New Canaan 5, Wethersfield 4 (9)
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New Canaan 002 000 201 --5 11 1 Read Full Article
Records: W 9-12; NC 15-7.Batteries: W-Ryan Costello, Alex Mullin (L) and David Skau; NC-Dan Rajkowski, Clarke Newlove (6), Alex LaPolice (7), Brendan Abate (9), Robby Jones (W, 1-0) and Zach Smith.