Grizzlies Taking Great Momentum into Playoffs
The Guilford baseball team finished its regular season on a high note by winning all three of its games last week. With his squad riding a five-game win streak into the playoffs, Head Coach Nick Merullo said that the Grizzlies’ success has been spearheaded by their team-first mentality this spring.
Guilford earned wins versus Foran (7-1), Amity (4-3), and Notre Dame-West Haven (2-1) in last week’s action. The Grizzlies posted a regular-season record of 11-9 on their way to qualifying for both the SCC Tournament and the Class L State Tournament.
Guilford began its week by playing a road game against Foran on May 17. Guilford’s offense took charge by scoring 2 runs in the first inning and 5 runs in the second to grab an early lead. The game remained scoreless from there, giving the Grizzlies a 7-1 victory.
Junior Sam Ametrano started on the mound and pitched 6 innings, allowing just 4 hits and striking out 7. Senior captain Aiden McBrierty had 2 hits, 2 RBI, and a stolen base, while fellow junior Jack Farrah had 2 hits with a run scored.
“The Foran game was a good game for us. We knew we needed to win two out of three to finish .500 or better, which was a goal of ours,” Coach Merullo said. “We were able to get off on the right foot against Foran. We scored all our runs early. It was nice to play without pressure. Sam pitched outstanding, and we made no errors behind him.”
Ametrano has been a crucial pitcher for Guilford down the stretch. The Grizzlies’ pitching staff also includes sophomore Bryce Meder, who’s been the team’s top-of-the-rotation starter. Junior Andrew Shosho entered the year as one of Guilford’s top pitchers, but suffered an injury that has sidelined him for more than half the season. In his absence, senior Max Corbett and freshman Lucas Deshefy have both stepped up. Overall, Coach Merullo said that the Grizzlies are confident in their pitching staff and feel they have a chance to win every game no matter who has the ball.
Guilford continued its final week of the regular season by playing a home game versus Amity on May 18. The Grizzlies started off with RBI from senior Tyler Zajowski, junior Carter Williams, and sophomore Mike Buccaro. They later gained an extra run of insurance on an RBI by Buccaro in the fifth inning that proved to be the decisive run as Guilford came away with a 4-3 victory.
Williams, senior captain Mike Torre, and junior Alex Vincent all had 2 hits to complement Buccaro’s 2 RBI. Corbett pitched the first 4 innings, allowing 2 runs and striking out 4. Deshefy tossed the final 3 innings in relief, allowing just 3 hits and no earned runs to go with 4 strikeouts.
Guilford had previously taken an 8-3 loss at Amity on April 27. Coach Merullo said the Grizzlies played the Spartans tight in that game and felt confident in their chances when they faced them at home. After letting some close games slip away during the early part of the season, Guilford has developed more confidence as the year has gone on with each player’s belief in both themselves and the team helping the Grizzlies power through.
“We had a lot of tough, close losses. All year long, we knew we were playing with really good teams. We were hanging right with the best teams in our league. The guys never lost confidence,” said Merullo. “They always knew that they had a chance every game. It took us some time to learn how to win. They put it together over the last week. They’re a tough group of kids. They believe in each other and they play with confidence.”
Guilford concluded its regular-season by hosting Notre Dame-West Haven on May 20. Notre Dame scored the first run of the game in the fifth inning and the score remained 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Ametrano hit a single on the first pitch of the frame and later came around to score the tying run on a single by Vincent. With two outs, Williams hit a walk-off single into right field to bring home sophomore Joseph Tafro, who was pinch running, with the winning run for a 2-1 victory. With this win, the Grizzlies completed regular-season play with a record of 11-9 and clinched their spot in the SCC Tournament.
Vincent had 3 hits to pace the Guilford offense, while Williams and Ametrano got 2 hits apiece. Sophomore Bryce Meder took the start and allowed 3 hits over 6 innings, striking out 6. Deshefy picked up the win after tossing a scoreless seventh.
“The story of our week was great pitching performances. Bryce only gave up three hits and only one of them left the infield. Notre Dame-West Haven is one of the strongest lineups in the game,” Coach Merullo said. “We had a great rally in the seventh. For us to come from behind and walk that off is huge. We’ve been in so many close games. To win the last two by one, it shows how far we’ve come.”
Guilford ended its regular season with a .323 team batting average. Williams hit .424 with 10 doubles and 19 RBI, and Torre batted .400 with 10 doubles and 18 RBI. Overall, Coach Merullo said that this year’s Grizzlies’ squad is filled with strong hitters and who have displayed a consistent approach at the plate all season.
“We have good athletes. Our guys are smart hitters. They know the strike zone well and put together quality at-bats,” said Merullo. “They’re aggressive at the plate. Guys are looking to hit the ball hard. At the same time, they’re not trying to do too much. All year, we’ve swung the bats well. We can rely on strong consistent at-bats one through nine in the lineup.”
Guilford has the No. 6 seed in the SCC Tournament and played at No. 3 Fairfield Prep in the quarterfinals on May 23 (after press time). With a win, the Grizzlies would have played the winner of No. 2 Amity and No. 7 Shelton in the semis on May 24 (after press time). The SCC final will be held at Piurek Field at West Haven High School on Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m.
While his team is taking great momentum into the playoffs, Coach Merullo doesn’t want anyone to get too far ahead of themselves. The Grizzlies’ skipper wants to see his players continue taking things “one pitch, one inning, and one game” at a time as they have all season. With all the battles that Guilford has gone through this year, Merullo is hoping that experience will help the Grizzlies shine on the playoff stage.
“One of the best things about our team is that one or two guys don’t have to carry the whole group. When we’re playing our best baseball, it’s a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys,” Merullo said. “We didn’t want some tough losses in April to define us. We wanted to be playing our best baseball in May. I’m confident that with the way we’ve been playing, we’ve been able to do that.”
The Guilford team’s baseball roster features senior captains Aiden McBrierty and Mike Torre; seniors Max Corbett, Tyler Zajkowski, Ethan Clark, and Chris Golino; juniors Brendan Skoglund, Cole Vashel, Carter Williams, Jack Farrah, Alex Vincent, Preston Markham, Cole Morgan-Berry, Sam Ametrano, and Andrew Shosho; sophomores Bryce Meder, Mike Buccaro, Colin Pompano, and Joseph Tafro; and freshman Lucas Deshefy.