Baseball: Foran defeats Shelton on last strike

The game of baseball doesn’t get any closer than this.

On Monday night in Shelton, Foran High senior pitcher T.J.  Stuart stared down on the Gaels leadoff hitter Chris Kanios with the game hanging in the balance. Foran held a slim 4-3 lead and Shelton had the bases loaded with two outs and a full count on the batter.

If there was ever a pay off pitch this was it — Stuart got a pitch to ride the rails for a called strike three to end the game.

“This has been typical of our season,” said Foran head coach Garrett Walker. “They have all been competitive games. Shelton proved how competitive they are, but we had the big arm at the end to close the door. I would have preferred if the bases weren’t loaded with two outs and two strikes on the batter, but that’s what these kids dream about every time they play in the backyard as kids.”

The Lions improved to 10-10 on the season and head into the state tournament with a full head of steam after winning their last four in a row. As far as being competitive, in 8 of the 10 losses the Lions fell short by two runs or less.

“Our starting pitcher Drew Corsi had no trouble getting out of trouble as Shelton left thirteen runners on base,” Walker said. “Our infield defense made some great plays to keep Shelton from scoring. It’s nice to be on the other end of these games, as we lost a couple like this a few weeks ago.”

Foran got on the board when Colin Firmender busted a double over the head of the Shelton right fielder to lead the game off. With two outs and two strikes, Bryan Firmender sent a blast to the 350-mark in left field for a two-run homer. It was his fifth blast of the season.

Corsi made the pitches he needed to, as Shelton (9-10) stranded a runner at third in the first and third innings. The defense chipped in with some run-saving plays when Shelton left runners at second and third in the second and fourth innings.

The Lions added a pair of runs in the third that turned out to be the deciding factor in the game. Justin Lanese got it started with a two out single and Brett Huber took one for the team getting hit by a pitch. A wild pitch sent the runners along, and Bryan Firmender took an intentional walk to load the bases.

Brian Wydra came through with the timely hit to right, sending two runs home before he was thrown out trying to reach second on the throw.

Foran got singles from Jim Mucciaccaro in the fourth and Bailey Wheeler in the sixth, but couldn’t push another run across the plate.

Shelton got on the board in the bottom of the fifth.

Dave Wells dumped a single into short right field and Matt Hunyadi belted a two out double to center to make it a 4-1 game. Corsi got out of the jam and Nick Hartley came on to start the sixth. Matt Silverstein singled to right and on a comebacker to the mound an errant throw opened the door for the Gaels.

Will Ciccone singled to load the bases and Kanios singled in a run. Hartley did walk in a run before striking out two batters to slam the door on the uprising with Foran holding on to a 4-3 advantage.

Stuart came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh and a walk and an error had him in hot water. It got a little hotter when another walk loaded the bases, but he turned it up a notch and got the final two outs on strikes to preserve the win.

“A game like this does a lot for our confidence going into the states,” Walker said. “We went through a tough stretch, but to come back and win four in a row has shown them that they can compete.”