Greenwich senior Cannons reloaded for another tourney run

Greenwich senior legion’s Hunter Frantz swings for the fences during Sunday’s game at Kiwanis Field in Fairfield. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich senior legion’s Hunter Frantz swings for the fences during Sunday’s game at Kiwanis Field in Fairfield. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Another season and still the goal of getting to the regional tournament remains the same for head coach Mike Abate and the rest of the Greenwich American Legion Senior Cannons.

However, early on it’s been tough. With players on vacation or having other commitments, Post 29 has only seen its entire team together for one game. Despite that, Greenwich is still 11-2 and Abate likes where his Cannons are heading.

“I like this team,” Abate said. “We did lose a lot, but I think we are going to compete. We have a nice mixture of veteran players and some really good young players. I like where our record is right now, but we have only played one game with our entire team out here. We have guys on vacation, guys going to showcases and guys doing football things. Once we are able to reel these guys back in and get our whole team back, we are going to be really good.”

Over this past weekend, Greenwich was able to take two of the three games it played against Fairfield. On Saturday, Greenwich’s pitching was on full display. In the first game, Greenwich starting pitcher Kyle Dunster threw a three-hitter as Post 29 won the game 2-0.

Later in the day, Greenwich’s JT Hintzen was lights out against Fairfield and hurled a no-hitter as Greenwich won 10-0. However, Sunday, Fairfield picked up the 6-0 blanking to salvage a victory.

Greenwich Cannons shortstop Alex Loparco applies the tag on his Fairfield opponent who is trying to steal second during Sunday’s game at Kiwanis Field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich Cannons shortstop Alex Loparco applies the tag on his Fairfield opponent who is trying to steal second during Sunday’s game at Kiwanis Field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“We kept their bats in check and played good defense behind them on Saturday,” Abate said. “Both Kyle and JT pitched great and dominated. Today we kind of ran out of pitching. We had kids today pitch that haven’t been on the mound all year. I thought they did well and threw strikes. But our defense didn’t really come to play for them. We struggled a little bit and a bad play on a bunt defense opened the door to four runs.”

In the first game on Saturday, Greenwich scored both of its runs in the second inning. Justin Gaccione led off by reaching base on an error. Two fielder’s choices by Ryan Hardin and Michael Genaro, an RBI single by Hunter Frantz and a walk to JT Hintzen gave the Cannons their 2-0 lead.

In the afternoon game, Hintzen was unstoppable. In five innings, Hintzen threw nine strikeouts, didn’t walk a batter and the only Fairfield runner to reach base was due to being hit by a pitch. Offensively Greenwich was on fire.

Alex Loparco led the way with a double, two singles and stole a base, while Gaccione finished with a single and double, and Genaro added two singles.

Hintzen and Hardin both reached base four times, while Loparco reached base three times.

Going by the games over the weekend against Fairfield, it’s easy to see why Abate has high hopes for the senior Cannons.

The Cannons finished the regular season last summer with a 21-6 record and took the silver in Zone IV.
In the playoffs, Post 29 beat Bethel 7-3, but fell to Waterbury in the Southern Sectional finals 6-2.

This season the Cannons will be seeing their strength come from the starting pitchers. Leading the way are two familiar faces in Greenwich, as GHS standouts Hintzen and Dunster are both coming off stellar seasons this past spring.

“Kyle and JT have overpowering fastballs and great command,” Abate said. “Kyle has a great slider and JT has a great curveball. They mix it in and out and go after hitters.”

Greenwich’s No. 3 starting pitcher is Michael Marzonie, while Michael Genaro is the team’s fourth.

“Marzonie really knows how to pitch and has a good fastball and a nice curveball,” Abate said. “He actually has three pitches that he can command. Genaro is our fourth and is outstanding. He’s a lefty and keeps kids off balance with his change-up. He knows how to work ahead and set up hitters.”

In addition to a solid four starters, the Cannons will also heavily rely on Hunter Frantz and Vincent Ferraro to step up their games.

“I think we can rely on our pitching and it’s going to be one of our strengths coming down the home stretch,” Abate said. “They are all good at what they do.”

While the starting pitching is going to pace the team, not to be outdone is Greenwich’s defense.
When everybody is in the lineup and available to play, Gaccione will patrol first base, while Loparco will occupy second.

Playing short will be a familiar face in Ricky Okazaki, and Marzonie will play the hot corner when not on the mound.

The outfield will see Hardin at center field, while Billy O’Malley will patrol left and Ferraro will be at right field. Behind home plate will be a solid duo, as John Dreher and Will Solomon will share time at catcher.

“Since I’ve been here with the Cannons, I have been really blessed to have a great defense,” Abate said. “Our defense up the middle is always good and this year is certainly no exception. Any time you start with defense, you want to be fundamentally sound up the middle. A lot of these games are lost and not necessarily won. We need to make the plays behind our pitching staff and score some runs. We should be on top in more than a lot of games.”

Greenwich’s offense will have a decent mix of power and speed. Because the Cannons don’t have those players who will crush the ball over the fence on a consistent basis, they will play more of a hit-and-run style and focus on situational hitting.

“We have a great bunch of athletic talent,” Abate said. “We have a lot of speed. Whether you’re the first kid or the ninth kid in the lineup, we have a good amount of speed and have guys that can put the ball in play. Against the good teams, you have to beat the strikeouts and find a way to put the ball in play. With our speed, we then need to let that take over. That’s what I like with this group. If we want to get where we want to, that has to be the way for us. I need us to limit the strikeouts with people in scoring position, put the ball in play and make things happen.”

With talent all over the lineup offensively, stellar pitching and sound defense, Greenwich should be one of the teams to beat in Zone IV. However, it’s not going to be easy.

On paper, Stamford is considered one of the best teams in the zone. Fairfield, New Canaan/Darien and Westport are all improved.

Trumbull will be tough and Norwalk is having another consistent season.

“I definitely want to compete in the zone for a zone title and go on to the state tournament. From there it would be great to win the state championship and go to regionals,” Abate said. “That’s our goal for every season, but we still need to take care of the here and now. We have to play in the moment and not look down the road. It’s important for us to get better every day. If you don’t come to play, anybody can beat you in the zone.”

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