Big first inning propels Greenwich baseball to victory over Tigers

Greenwich High School starting pitcher Kyle Dunster delivers the ball to the plate during Monday's game against Ridgefield. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School starting pitcher Kyle Dunster delivers the ball to the plate during Monday’s game against Ridgefield. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich High School baseball team was looking for its breakout game and got it Monday afternoon, courtesy of seniors Taylor Olmstead and Kyle Dunster.

Against Ridgefield High School, Olmstead finished with two doubles and a triple, while Dunster’s performance on the mound kept Ridgefield’s high-powered offense at bay. At the end, the Cards scored four times in the first inning and came away with the 8-5 victory.

“It was good to see Taylor bust out today with two doubles and a triple,” Greenwich head coach Mike Mora said. “The fact that we scored eight today and four in the first was great. The fact that we kept on tacking on runs was great because we needed every one of them. It was a good team win today. We’ve got some guys that aren’t hitting, but others are stepping in.”

At the plate, Greenwich was led by senior rightfielder Olmstead, who finished going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, two runs scored, and one RBI.

“Today I had a good day,” Olmstead said. “I felt good and it was great to see that our team was starting to come out strong and everybody was hitting well today. We have great pitching, between Kyle and Ryan [Marks], but when we play good defense and hit on top of that, it’s a great team effort. We can beat any team in the league if we could hit, play defense and pitch at the same time.”

Not to be outdone was starting pitcher Dunster, who finished 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and one RBI. On the mound, Dunster was just as effective. In six innings of work, Dunster gave up four earned runs and eight hits, while striking out five batters and not allowing a walk.

“He was pitching to the score,” Mora said. “He didn’t want to walk anybody. Give Ridgefield credit. When he got behind in the count, we were saying, ‘Here you go, hit it.’ And they did. That’s baseball. That’s what you do. Rather than walking guys, you make them earn it. They earned a couple of runs and we were able to stop them.”

Dunster said he had a little trouble commanding his pitches and left a couple over the plate, but it was still a solid outing overall.

“It’s definitely good to have a lot of run support, especially when you give up five runs,” Dunster said. “I felt pretty good. I had a lot of rest, so I was able to command a lot of my pitches. My curveball felt good, too, and the change-up was working. To get eight runs behind your back is really good. I think overall we are looking pretty good. We’ve got a deep pitching staff and everything is going well. All the bats are coming around, so everything is good.”

Ryota Fujikura chipped in by going 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Jonathan Dreher went 2-for-3 with an RBI and one run scored. Cameron Fennell finished with one hit and two RBIs and Liam O’Neill went 2-for-3. Ricky Okazaki rounded out the scoring by going 1-for-3 with two runs scored.

Greenwich High's Ricky Okazaki takes a healthy lead off of first during Monday's game. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High’s Ricky Okazaki takes a healthy lead off of first during Monday’s game. — John Ferris Robben photo

For Ridgefield, Collin O’Meara led the way, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Teammates Rob DePalma, Adam Ziandri and Devin Martin each added one hit and one RBI in the losing effort.

“We were one hit away from tying the game,” said Ridgefield head coach Paul Fabbri. “We swing the bats and have done that all year. I am confident with this team and haven’t seen a guy yet that can hold us down. I was proud of the kids because they were down but didn’t put their heads down and check out mentally. They kept on grinding it out.”

After the Tigers went quietly in the top of the first inning, Big Red exploded onto the scene in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Olmstead got the ball rolling with a double down the third base line. After catcher Jonathan Dreher drew a walk, Dunster stepped to the plate and helped his own cause, drilling a double to deep center field that plated Olmstead and moved Dreher to third.

Greenwich expanded its lead to 3-0 when third baseman Cameron Fennell came to the plate and hit a single to left that scored both Dreher and Dunster. Ryota Fujikura hit a soft fly ball behind first that dropped in for a single and Fennell scored on the plate to give the Cards their fourth run of the inning.

The Cardinals added two runs in the second inning to make the score 6-0. With one out and both Devin McGrath and senior Ricky Okazaki on base via a walk, Olmstead struck again. The right fielder laced a sharp double to center field that played McGrath and advanced McGrath to third. During Dreher’s at bat, the RHS pitcher uncorked a wild pitch that drove home Okazaki to give Greenwich its sixth run of the game.

“They are pretty good and they swing the bats probably better than anybody we’ve seen so far,” Fabbri said. “They’ve got some big boys and could grind out at bats. They got a lot of two-out hits, which is the mark of a pretty disciplined team.

The Tigers didn’t give up and cut the lead to 6-2 with one run in both the third and fourth innings. However, Greenwich extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.

With one out, Okazaki hit a single to right, immediately stole second and took third on a bad throw to first by the Ridgefield catcher during Olmstead’s at bat. Olmstead lofted the ball to the right fielder, who was unable to get a glove on the ball for the out and Okazaki scored on the error.

The Tigers came through in the top of the sixth inning, scoring three runs. Ridgefield’s DePalma and Ziandri started the inning with back-to-back singles. Martin flied out to center, but DePalma advanced to third on the tag up. During O’Meara’s at bat, Ziandri stole second and both runners came home when O’Meara smacked a single to left field.

Phillip Sammon came to the plate next and after O’Meara advanced to second on a wild pitch, Sammon hit a high fly to second. However, the ball dropped between the Greenwich second baseman, center fielder and shortstop, and O’Meara was able to score and cut the Greenwich lead to 7-5.

“I think they are a playoff team,” Mora said. “I like their pitching, I like their hitting, they are solid defensively and will be there in the end. I have a feeling that we might see them again.”

Greenwich got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning. Olmstead led off the inning with a booming triple to left field and came around to score a play later, as Dreher smacked a single to left.

From there, the game was in senior Ryan Marks’ hands, as the reliever took the mound and easily retired the Tigers to end the game.

“I give Ridgefield credit because they are one of the best teams in the FCIAC, but we played our butt off today,” Olmstead said. “If we keep on playing like this, I think we are going to hit our stride pretty soon and will play good baseball.”

With the victory, Greenwich kept its undefeated season in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference alive, moving to 5-0 on the season. Overall Greenwich sits at 5-1, with the team’s only loss coming to Southington, 9-4.

“It’s a great start,” Mora said. “We got the loss out of the way, so we don’t have to deal with that monkey on our back all year. We are finding our way. Early in the season you take a win any way you can get it. I think we are starting to get into the flow offensively.”

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