Greenwich High baseball finds constant improvement, confidence this season

Although the Greenwich High School baseball team was unable to reach its goals of an Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and CIAC class LL championship, head coach Mike Mora still has plenty to be proud about when talking about his group of Cardinals.

“I think we had a good season,” Mora said. “We were definitely playing better at the end of the season than at the beginning. That’s what you want. To be right there at the end and play well was nice to see. We improved a lot and it was a nice season.”

Greenwich finished the season 20-6 overall. Their two losses in the postseason were in games that were controlled by pitching. In the FCIAC semifinals, Trumbull’s Colin Keyes matched up brilliantly with Kyle Dunster. However it was the Golden Eagles that punched home two runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat GHS 3-1.

During the CIAC class LL quarterfinals against Amity, Greenwich ran into a roadblock named Michael Concato. The Spartan’s pitcher hurled a no-hitter and ended Big Red’s season

“Both pitchers we faced are definitely college-bound pitchers,” Mora said. “Concato could probably pitch ‘A’ ball right now with his stuff and his control. We gave him a battle and that’s all we can ask for. In a single-elimination tournament, you play a team once and you’re going to get that one pitcher that’s hot. In fairness, Kyle pitched great against Trumbull, but they just found holes.”

Last year, Big Red knew what they had when the first game of the season started, as nearly the entire starting lineup was returning and all had at least a year of experience under their belt. However this season was a completely different story.

Kyle Dunster, who dominated the competition as Greenwich’s closer last season, was going to be a starting pitcher. J.T. Hintzen was a quality pitcher, but never pitched on the varsity squad. Ricky Okazaki was an outstanding catcher for Big Red last year, but this season he was converted to shortstop. Vincent Ferraro switched sides of the infield was the team’s second baseman this time around.

“It was a fun year for us,” Mora said. “It was fun because we had a lot of question marks going into the season, where last year we knew we had seven starters returning and good back-ups. This year we knew we had players returning, but we weren’t sure where they were going to fit. Within two weeks we had an idea of how things were going to look, but we never thought we would get off to the start we had.”

The Cardinals started the season on fire, winning five of their first six games. Those victories included an 8-5 win against Ridgefield, a 4-3 victory against Fairfield Ludlowe, and commanding victories against Fairfield Warde, Stamford and Trinity Catholic.

Even in the team’s 4-0 loss to St. Joseph, Greenwich played an outstanding game until the sixth inning.

“The kids worked really hard to get into those roles,” Mora said. “I think that was most rewarding for me. We really came together and had a nice season. It would have been nice to win a championship, but considering where we came from at the start of the season, I am proud of them.”

On the mound, Greenwich senior Ryan Marks and juniors Hintzen and Dunster led the way. Hintzen paced Big Red with a 6-2 overall record and an ERA that was under 1.25. He led the team with 48 strikeouts and gave up 18 hits.

Dunster finished with a 6-2 record and an ERA of 2.20. He had 31 strikeouts and only gave up nine walks on the season. Not to be outdone was Marks, who finished with a 5-2 record and added 40 strikeouts and only eight earned runs. At the plate, Dunster netted 20 hits, 12 RBIs, 13 runs scored and launched a triple.

Offensively, no one had a better season than senior Okazaki, as he led the Cardinals with an.378 batting average and had a team-high 28 hits. Not to be outdone was fellow senior Taylor Olmstead, who netted 26 hits, 13 runs batted in and scored 23 runs. He also led the team with six doubles and tied senior Ryota Fujikura with 13 stolen bases.

In addition to those stolen bases, Fujikura also was the team’s most patient hitter, picking up 11 walks. He added 20 hits and scored 16 times. When it came to runs batted in, no one was better than Ferraro, who led the team with 24. The senior also finished with 24 hits, five doubles, crossed the plate 22 times and was the lone Cardinal to hit a homerun.

Senior third baseman Cameron Fennell had strong year at the plate as well. He tied Olmstead for second on the team in hits with 26, added 10 Runs batted in and crossed the plate 15 times.

Throughout the season, Mora thought that the team’s attitude got better after every practice and every game.

“I thought they had more confidence towards the end of the season and they weren’t questioning themselves,” Mora said. “At first a lot of the kids weren’t sure what they were going to do and where they would fit. I think the confident and camaraderie was much better. They really grew as kids and came together at the end.”

While the Cardinals have accomplished a plethora of positives this season, Mora still said his team has plenty to work on for next season.

“We need to work on our fundamentals,” Mora said. “We need to work on our overall hitting. We need to put the ball in place hard against a good pitcher. With that comes a certain approach. We need to shorten our swing, dropping the bat head and hit line drives. The kids have to understand who needs to hit the line drives, who needs to take the ball to the outfield, who needs to bunt or use their speed on a grounder.”

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