Ciambriello comes off bench, Keyes pitches Trumbull to final

The last time Vinny Ciambriello had a bat in his hands, the Trumbull High senior pinch hit a single off the first base bag to spark the fifth-seeded Eagles past fourth-seeded New Canaan in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC baseball tournament on Monday.

Before Trumbull came up to hit in the top of the seventh inning locked in a 1-1 tie with Greenwich High in the semifinals at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on Wednesday night, Ciambriello was told to grab a bat and start swinging  by coach Phil Pacelli,

“I guess I was hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice,” Pacelli said after Ciambriello singled home pinch runner Liam Moore from second with two outs and the Eagles went on to win a 3-1 decision.

“On Monday, he bounced one off the first base bag and we went on to score five runs. This was a solid single, and I’m so happy for him.”

Trumbull will play Danbury High for the FCIAC title at 12 p.m. on Saturday at Harbor Yard. The Eagles are defending league champions. The Hatters defeated Fairfield Ludlowe, 4-2, in the second semifinal.

Carl Johnson started the winning rally with a one-out double into the bullpen down the third base line.

With Moore on second, Luke Waldek drove the ball to the right side, but Greenwich first baseman Liam O’Neil dove to his left to spear the liner. Moore read the play and didn’t stray far from second.

That brought Ciambriello out of the on-deck circle to face Cardinal right-hander Kyle Dunster.

“Coach told me to get loose and start swinging a bat,” Ciambriello said. “I just wanted to give Colin (Colin Keyes) a run to work with. He’s a big game pitcher and I knew he’d give us seven good innings, or whatever we needed.”

Keyes, who pitched Trumbull past Greenwch in last year’s title game, pitched to only one batter over the minimum through six innings, and took a one-hitter into the bottom of the seventh.

When asked if it was difficult going to the mound every inning with only one run on the Trumbull side, leaving little room for error, Keyes said, “I don’t try to control things I can’t control. I was looking to make good pitches and my changeup was working for me today.”

Trumbull took a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

After Willy Velez reached on an infield single, he stole second, went to third on James DeNomme’s two-out fly ball to right, and scored on Keyes’ RBI single to left field.

Top-seeded Greenwich got that run back in the bottom of the first.

Ryota Fujikara walked on a 3-2 pitch with one out, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Ricky Orazaki’s roller to the right side.

Cameron Fennell singled for Greenwich in the second, but DeNomme threw him out attempting to steal.

Keyes retired 12 straight batters, with the biggest threat coming in the third when Taylor Olmstead rocketed a ball into the gap in left center, only to have Jake Levison make an outstanding catch on the run.

Olmstead ended the skein with a single in the sixth. But again, DeNomme showed off his strong arm and quick release to nab him stealing.

Brandon Liscinsky singled to open the Trumbull third. After a fielder’s choice Velez stole another base, but Dunster left him stranded.

Ryan Fritz had Trumbull’s fourth hit, a single to center, but the Cards turned a 6-4-3 double play.

Dunster retired 11 straight batters before DeNomme singled, but advanced no further in the sixth.

Levison reentered the game after Ciambriello’s hit, stole second, and scored to make it 3-1 on Liscinsky’s RBI single.

Greenwich threatened in the seventh, with a leadoff single by Fujikara.

Keyes caught a foul pop up the first base line for the first out to bring Vincenzo Ferraro to the plate representing the tying run.

Ferraro took  big hack and the ball headed for left field. Jeff Sam took a step back on the swing, and then recovered and used sprinter speed to make a diving catch for the second out.

O’Neil kept the drama brewing with a soft single to left, but Keyes completed his gem with a pop up to Johnson at first.

“Colin matched their ace Dunster and was outstanding,” Pacelli said. “He certainly rises to the occasion in big spots.”