O’Brien tosses no-hitter Sunday to help junior Cannons inch closer to American Legion postseason

When it mattered most, Will O’Brien stepped up in a big way.

With the Greenwich American Legion junior Cannons fighting for 15 wins and a spot in the upcoming Connecticut American Legion junior state tournament, the Greenwich starting pitcher took to the mound Sunday against Wilton and had a game he’ll never forget, tossing a no-hitter and helping the Cannons win the game 2-1.

“It was a great game for Will, but it was a game that we really needed,” Greenwich head coach Sam Abdelwahab said. “We were coming off two straight losses and we’re making a push for the playoffs. The team really stepped up against Wilton. We only got three hits, so Will needed to be on top of his game. That’s exactly what happened. He made a statement and stepped up like we expected him to do.”

In seven innings, O’Brien struck out 10 and only walked four batters. He led off the game walking the Wilton leadoff hitter, but finished his no-hit bid in style, striking out the side to secure the victory.

“He always has a good fastball, but coach Tim Daly and I commented that his fastball was especially live today,” Abdelwahab said. “He was also throwing his curveball for strikes during any count, so that made him virtually impossible to hit. Will had a great week. He celebrated his 16th birthday on Monday by pitching and getting a win for us. He’s a great leader because he never complains and does what we ask. When he’s not pitching, he’s cheering for everybody else. I’m really happy for him and it’s great to see a kid like that step up like that.”

Greenwich started the game by scoring a run in the first inning. Evan Jonokuchi got things rolling by drawing a walk and stealing second base. He then advanced to third base on a Wilton wild pitch and came around to score when Billy O’Mally launched a sacrifice fly.

Just like they did in the first inning, the junior Cannons manufactured another run in the sixth inning. Nick Bancroft started the ball rolling by reaching base on an error and immediately stole second base. After swiping third base, Bancroft netted the go-ahead run when catcher Max Barefoot smacked a single.

In addition to catching O’Brien’s no-hitter, Barefoot netted two of the three hits that Greenwich had on the day.

Keeping the no-hitter in tact, Hunter Frantz had a play for the highlight reel for Greenwich. In the sixth inning Wilton had the game-tying runner on base, Frantz made a diving stop and tagged the runner out to end the scoring threat.

“Our defense played well and we made every play that we needed to,” Abdelwahab said. “As it seems with every no hitter, there’s one play that stands out and that was the case today with Hunter. He made a great play and was something that really picked up the team.”

With the victory, the junior Cannons are inching closer to achieving its goal of qualifying for the state tournament. Needing 15 wins on the season, Greenwich currently stands at 11-9 on the season. With seven games remaining in the season, the junior Cannons need at least four victories to assure them a spot in the state tournament.

“We want those 15 wins and I think it’s well within our reach,” Abdelwahab said. “We’re playing really good team baseball and that’s exactly what you want to see from your team this late in the season. Everybody is really focused on winning the inning, getting the next run, making the next play and rooting for each other. That’s the sign of a good team and I am looking forward to this week to see if we could continue to make a run.”

Today at 5:30 p.m., Greenwich will travel to Seaside Park for a game against Bridgeport. Tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., Greenwich returns home and will play a key game against Zone IV’s top team Trumbull at Julian Curtiss. After a much-needed day off, Greenwich will return to action Thursday and will host rivals Stamford at 5:30 p.m. at Havermeyer Field.

The junior Cannons finish off the week traveling to Staples High School and will play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 9 against Westport.

To read more on the team and their playoff push, check out Thursday’s Greenwich Post sports section.

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