LaPolice's Grand Slam gives New Canaan walk-off win over Trumbull
Published 11:32 pm, Wednesday, May 21, 2014
NEW CANAAN -- For 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon, New Canaan junior Alex LaPolice felt as if the world was about to cave in on him.
After giving up a two-run home run to Trumbull first-baseman Mat DeRienzo in the top of the sixth, a 350-foot blast to left field that gave the Eagles what looked like an insurmountable 4-0 lead, LaPolice couldn't help but feel as if he had just cost his team a victory, possibly even a berth to the FCIAC playoffs.
"I felt pretty bad," said LaPolice, a left-hander who came on in relief of senior right-hander Dan Rajkowski. "I definitely felt as if I let my team down."
In what seemed like a blink of an eye, New Canaan had staged a stunning reversal. Just a few minutes after getting knocked down to his lowest point this season, LaPolice was celebrating the type of storybook ending usually only seen in Hollywood.
New Canaan scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh off Trumbull's ace right-hander Avery Santos, culminating in a walk-off grand slam by LaPolice, giving the Rams a stunning 7-4 victory at Mead Park.
LaPolice came to the plate with one out, the bases loaded and New Canaan trailing 4-3 but charging fast. Looking to just get the ball into the outfield to bring home the tying run, LaPolice belted a 2-2 curveball over the fence in left to give the Rams (14-5, 12-5 FCIAC) a win that clinched a spot in the FCIAC playoffs.
"It was an unbelievable moment," LaPolice said. "I went up there just trying to get a job done. But coach trusted me. My team trusted me, and I was able to get the job done."
Even the optimistic coach of the Rams Mich Hoffman thought the game was over going into the seventh.
"I was thinking about the post-game speech and what we were going to work on (Thursday) in practice," Hoffman said. "It's unbelievable. We played one inning of great baseball, and it came at the right time. We never gave up. That's the kind of stuff you write movies about."
Trumbull (14-5, 12-5), still in the playoffs despite the setback, felt as if it was in the clear once it got Rajkowski out of the game. The UConn-bound Rajkowski was masterful, throwing five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits behind a hard-biting curveball that had the Eagles guessing.
But Trumbull forced him out after two batters in the sixth. LaPolice came on and allowed a two-run single by Colin Keyes and the home run by DeRienzo.
Santos (5-1) had allowed just five hits on 64 pitches through six innings, but seemed to lose focus after a leadoff infield error. After a single by Rajkowski, New Canaan plated the first run on a balk, the second on an RBI single by Kane Curtin and made it 4-3 when a catcher's interference call forced home a run.
The Eagles had someone warming up in the bullpen, but Trumbull stuck with their ace and LaPolice made them pay. It was the first loss of the season for Santos.
"He's been one of our go-to guys all year so we felt like it was his game to lose," Trumbull head coach Phil Pacelli said. "The guys battled all day long. It was like a playoff game. Maybe this will keep us hungry going into next week."
Junior Clarke Newlove, recently up from junior varsity, got the final two outs in the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up his third win of the season for New Canaan.
New Canaan 7, Trumbull 4
TRUMBULL 000 004 0--4 8 1
NEW CANAAN 000 000 7--7 9 1
Records: T-14-5 overall, 12-5 FCIAC; NC-14-5 overall, 12-5 FCIAC.
Batteries: T-Avery Santos (L, 5-1) and Carlos Garrito; NC-Dan Rajkowski, Alex LaPolice (6), Clarke Newlove (6) and Zack Smith.