FAIRFIELD — Christian Hardiman was looking for a pitch he could hit to keep the line moving with Warde trailing St. Joseph, 12-10, and two out and two men on base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I was just trying to stay alive and get us to the next man,” Hardiman said after his three-run home run gave his team a 13-12 walk-off win over the Cadets, the No. 10 team in the GameTimeCT top 10 poll. “We haven’t gotten the wins we wanted, so have to keep fighting.”
Warde improved to 3-4 after it handed St. Joseph its second loss in seven outings.
“We have been ahead to Staples (No. 5) and Newtown and haven’t finished,” Warde coach Brett Conner said. “So, our record isn’t clear on how we play. We haven’t competed as well as we can on the mound. We need to compete in all areas (with hitting and defense).”
Cadet right-hander Mike Chaves got ahead of Hardiman 0-2 and his next two throws were purpose pitches. Hardiman wouldn’t bite on either of the low fastballs. At 3-2, he fouled off a pitch and then went hunting. As he got near the first base bag, the ball cleared the fence in right field.
“Christian is a hard-working kid,” Conner said of his junior center fielder. “It is a testament to the time he put in getting stronger. That’s what got him ready for this moment.”
Swirling winds made the game an adventure and it took Hardiman’s heroics to close Mustang Park for the day.
“From experience, I knew we were going to have to score a bunch of runs,” St. Joseph coach Jim Chaves said. “It’s always windy here, not always like this (gusts to 20 miles per hour). It was going to take a lot of runs to win this.”
The Cadets put up four runs in the top of the first when they sent nine batters to the plate. Jimmy Evans and Hadyn Gorley had singles. Evans, Gourley and Carter Courbron drove in runs.
With the gauntlet in place, Warde picked it up.
Hardiman (single), Austin Stewart (double) and Owen Stanton (single) made three errors in the bottom of the first count, as the Mustangs put a five-spot on the scoreboard.
Warde added two runs in the third. Stewart walked and Mason McKay doubled off the fence in left field. Stanton’s sacrifice fly brought a run home. McKay went to third on a wild pitch.
Sam Vincent, a lefty-swinging senior, had a job to do here. He did more than prescribed. He pulled the ball to the right side, and it carried through the hole into right field for an RBI.
St. Joseph countered with a seven-run fourth, with six runs coming across after two outs were in the book.
Stephen Paolini doubled.
Evans’ fly ball was lost in the sun, but Stewart came up with the ball and got a force out at third as a run scored.
Charlie Pagliarini singled, before Aaron Kirby’s wind-carried fly ball fell in no man’s land behind first.
Two walks tied the game. Courbron then unloaded the bases with a three-run double to right-center field.
An infield error made it 11-7.
Consecutive singles by Declan O’Hara, Matt Raab and Hardison got one run back in the bottom of the frame.
Evans singled home Paolini, who walked three times from the top spot in the order, in the fifth.
The 12-8 lead held up until the seventh.
Vincent doubled with one out and pinch-hitter Anthony Espinoza doubled him home with two out.
After O’Hara’s infield hit, Raab singled to center.
That brought Hardiman to the plate.
“It was a little crazy with that wind and that sun,” Conner said. “They gave us three runs; we gave the runs right back. We kept working and got the win.”
Player of the Game
Christian Hardiman — The Warde junior hit the game-winning home run in bottom of seventh. He also singled twice, scored two runs and finished with 4 RBIs.
The wind turned legitimate threats into runs scored in bunches. Five balls hit in to the air found land instead of gloves. It was like a fireman trying to catch someone trying to escape a house with a butterfly net.
“I was just trying to stay alive and get us to the next man.” –Warde’s Christian Hardiman
WARDE 13, ST. Joseph 12
SJ 400 701 0—12 6 4
FW 502 100 6—13 14 2
Records: St. Joseph 5-2, Warde 3-4. Batteries: SJ — Hadyn Gorley, LP Mike Chaves (4) and Aaron Kirby. FW — Harry Graney Green, Mason McKay (4), Alex Wiggetman (4), WP Matt Robinson (6) and Finn Mobley