As it turns out, saving your best for last may not be the best course of action after all.
No. 9 New Canaan was knocked out of the Class L baseball tournament Tuesday in a decisive 7-1 loss at No. 8 Cheney Tech that ended its quest to repeat as state champions. Rams starter JR Anderson took the loss in four-plus innings of work, as the Beavers scored six runs in the first three innings. Later, New Canaan put two runners aboard with no outs in the top of the seventh, when Cheney Tech starter Isiah Quiles recorded three straight outs, including a pair of punch-outs that ended the game.
“I think as a team, we didn’t come out the way we’re supposed to come out,” said Rams coach Mitch Hoffman. “We came out a little flat and looking for the next guy to do the job, and it didn’t happen.”
An RBI single from catcher Zack Smith in the second inning proved to be the lone New Canaan run of the game, but only after Smith’s hit took a fortunate deflection off the glove of Beavers shortstop Merlyn Herrera. Herrera came back in the sixth to claim his revenge by snaring a hot liner from Nick Cascione that seemed to seal the Rams’ eventual fate.
But the star of the game was undoubtedly Quiles who, even at 5-foot-8, held New Canaan to one hit over conescutive at-bats in the middle innings. He also clubbed a double and a triple at the plate, while recording two RBI.
“It made me want to throw even better,” Quiles said of playing the defending champs. “I was loose. I was feeling good and confident in myself.”
Senior captain Matt Toth entered in relief of Anderson in the fifth inning, once the starter allowed the lead-off man to reach base. While he surrendered two unearned runs, Toth kept the Cheney Tech bats at bay as his team’s offense continued to struggle. Toth is set to graduate this spring as part of a senior group that reached three Class L semifinals and two championship games in its careeer.
“These seniors are a big part of the future and the foundation of this program,” Hoffman said. “And the young guys need to recognize that and appreciate that. I’m going to miss this group a lot.”