WATERBURY – What a night on the Waterbury Municipal Stadium mound for Nonnewaug senior pitcher Liam O’Brien.
O’Brien exterminated the Yellowjackets with 15 strikeouts as the Chiefs took home a 3-0 win and clinched a CIAC Class M Tournament berth.
“I was just feeling it tonight,” said O’Brien who struck out the first five batters he faced before Gilbert first baseman Austin Smith reached on a single. “I talked with (catcher) Nick Sordi before the game and we had a game plan that we wanted to execute. We were just on the same page all day.”
O’Brien threw just 99 pitches, allowed just two hits, and walked just two batters to get the shutout.
“He was awesome tonight,” said Nonnewaug head coach Frank Melillo, “I didn’t even realize he had that many strikeouts until after the game. He was just rolling.”
O’Brien has mastered the Gilbert lineup. On April 11, O’Brien pitched a run-rule shortened complete game in a 12-2 win at Gilbert.
Unless O’Brien reached the 110-pitch maximum, Melillo was not about to take him out.
“Liam is a big, strong kid,” Melillo said. “I was going to let him go as long as he didn’t get into any trouble. With 15 strikeouts, I can’t take him out of the game.”
The Nonnewaug offense got on the board early to help O’Brien out. Hayden Brochu doubled with one out in the first inning and came around to score on a double by Sordi.
The Chiefs added some insurance in the fourth. Sordi singled to lead off the inning, stole second, and went to third on a single to left by Krizan, who alertly went to second base on the throw.
Jarrett Michaels singled through a drawn-in infield to bring home Sordi, and Krizan came home when Max Pape’s drive to left was mishandled by the Gilbert left fielder.
Michaels and Sordi both had two-hit games for Nonnewaug.
The win brought Nonnewaug’s record to 8-8 and qualifies the Chiefs for their third-straight CIAC Class M Tournament appearance.
“Making states is a big deal for us,” O’Brien said. “We just want to keep it rolling.”
It’s also the second win in a row for Nonnewaug, which had lost four straight games before that.
“After we lost and went to 6-8, we had a team meeting and regrouped,” Melillo said. “I told them we have 6 games left, let’s go 6-0. They just refocused and did what they had to do.”
The Nonnewaug-Gilbert game was broadcast live by Robcasting Radio for JustWoodbury.com. Rob Adams handled the play-by-play, Tim Parry did the color commentary, and Dr. Anna Cutaia was their special guest. The game can be heard below, and is brought to you by the following sponsors: EverGreen Lawn & Landscape Management, Livin’ Country, Maison St. Germain, Monkey Bar Gym, New Morning Market & Vitality Center, San Remo Restaurant & Pizzeria, Tricia’s Main Street Barber Shop & Salon, Woodbury Brewing Company, and The Woodbury Diner.