TRUMBULL — Aaron Kirby delivered a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to power St. Joseph to an 11-10 walk-off win over town rivals Trumbull in the FCIAC baseball quarterfinals on Saturday.
“That’s definitely the biggest hit of my life,” Kirby said. “I was looking for something in my zone. My mindset was to not try to do too much… I caught it right on the barrel.”
In a game that will not be forgotten any time soon locally, winning pitcher Jimmy Evans sparked the rally for the fourth-seeded Cadets. He singled off Bryan Kraus with two down in the seventh with No. 5 seed Trumbull hanging onto a 10-9 lead.
Kirby then squared up a 3-1 offering and hammered it over the left-center field fence for the game-winning home run — the mind-boggling fifth of the game for St. Joseph.
“If you had told me before the game that we were going to hit five home runs and we were going to need a walk-off two-run home run to win it, I would’ve told you, you were crazy,” St. Joseph head coach Jim Chaves said. “But that’s the kind of game it was. I was not expecting an 11-10 ballgame, but that’s how it turned out. Credit to Aaron Kirby there… There was a lot of pressure on him.”
St. Joseph (14-7) will meet top-seeded Staples (18-3) in the FCIAC semifinals at 5 p.m. on Monday at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford.
“Our bats are really hot,” Kirby said. “We’re batting well one through nine. We’re going to try to keep the momentum up next game.”
Trumbull (13-8) surged ahead with five runs in the top of the second inning, capitalizing on an error on a grounder that might have resulted in an inning-ending double play. Instead, one run scored on Ray Leonzi’s seemingly-innocent grounder. Brian Hance and Tim Lojko followed with RBI singles, before Chris Brown’s sacrifice fly pushed the margin to 5-0.
“We played a good game today,” Trumbull head coach Phil Pacelli said. “It was an all-out slugfest. Both teams swung the bats well.”
Not to be outdone, St. Joseph sent 14 to the plate in the bottom of the second. The Cadets clobbered back-to-back home runs twice in the frame.
Jack Wallace delivered the first blow, lashing a two-run shot to left-center field off Eagle starter Andrew Harvey. Stephen Paolini then unloaded a solo homer over the scoreboard in center field, before Evans singled sharply back through the box.
After Kirby hit a long fly ball to center for the second out, Charlie Pagliarini crushed a two-run home run to right to put the Cadets on top, 6-5. Two pitches later, Hadyn Gourley ripped a solo shot to left.
That was it for Harvey, with Bryan Kraus relieving him. Consecutive singles from Al Paolozzi, Carter Courbron and Luke Kirby produced another run to stake St. Joseph to an 8-5 edge, before Kraus retired Wallace on a foul out to left.
“He’s our toughest reliever. He comes in, throws strikes and gets outs,” Pacelli said of Kraus, who scattered six hits in five innings of relief.
The Cadet lead was short-lived, as Trumbull tied it up in top of the third. Alex Candelaria and Leonzi sandwiched singles around Greg Kaufmann reaching on an error. Evans took over for starter Michael Chaves and issued consecutive walks to Hance and Lojko. A run-scoring groundout off the bat of Kevin Bruggeman then knotted the game at 8.
“We were hoping we would be able to hold him off until Monday,” Chaves said of Evans. “But the situation that presented itself, we brought him in on three day’s rest. We saw he didn’t have his best stuff. He gutted it out and made big pitches.”
The Cadets snatched the lead back in the bottom of the frame, with Gourley’s RBI groundout giving them a 9-8 advantage.
Candelaria’s RBI double forced another deadlock at 9-9 in the top of the fourth until Trumbull broke through for a run in the fifth.
Hance led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, then scored when Brown’s grounder to second produced an errant throw that pulled first baseman Gourley off the bag.
The one-run cushion held until the two outs in the seventh, when Kirby ended the thriller.
“I haven’t seen a game like that in a long time,” Pacelli said.
ST. JOSEPH 11, TRUMBULL 10
Trumbull 053 110 0 10-12-0
St. Joseph 081 000 2 11-14-2
Batteries: Trumbull-Harvey, Krauss (2) and Bruggeman; St. Joseph-Chaves, Evans (3) and A. Kirby