NEW BRITAIN - When asked if he had any plan heading into his final at-bat Tuesday afternoon, New Britain’s Michael Gajda said he just tried to battle.
The catcher delivered the biggest hit in the Hurricanes’ season, lacing a walk-off, bases-loaded single to left field, securing No. 15 New Britain’s 4-3 win over No. 18 Enfield in first round of the Class LL baseball tournament at Beehive Stadium.
“They walked me before and I had to make them pay for that,” Gajda said. “It felt really, good, it felt great. We got the win and now we’re moving on.”
The Hurricanes advance in the tournament and will travel to second-seeded South Windsor (19-2) today for a 3:30 p.m. start.
It was also the first time since 2015 New Britain had advanced past the first round.
“It was a great battle,” Hurricanes coach Roberto Mercado said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We took advantage of some of the opportunities we had and so did [Enfield]. We just have to get some timely hits and it happened today. At the end of the ball game, bases loaded nowhere to put them. Gajda battled from a 1-2 count to get it full and he got the shot.”
New Britain held a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the fifth, until Eagles left fielder Cameron Carlin hit an RBI single to left field, to bring home Devon Edwards.
New Britain was able to respond rather quickly, scoring a run in both the bottom of the frame and in the bottom of sixth.
Will Homar sent a line drive to centerfield for an RBI single to bring home Yan Hernandez in the fifth, while right fielder Melvin Rodriguez hit an RBI single to right field to bring home Robert Zapor and take a 3-1 lead.
“I told the guys we try to play the game inning by inning,” Mercado said. “Win or tie every inning and we did that this game.”
But Enfield scored twice in the seventh to tie to the game after Homar was removed from the game due to pitch count.
After 111 pitches, Homar was relieved for shortstop Danniel Rivera. Homar struck out six batters, walked two and allowed eight hits.
Rivera closed out the game with one strike out and one hit.
“One hundred percent I would have kept him in the whole game,” Mercado said of Homar. “I know he’s going to throw five or six more and I have confidence in him that he could finish the game. It is what it is and that’s the rule and we all have to go by it.”
Edwards started the seventh inning for Enfield, singling to right field. With Edwards on first, shortstop Brett Reedy hit an RBI triple to bring him home.
The Eagles then tied the game at 3-3 when Matt Falk hit a RBI double, bringing Reedy home.
“It was really emotionally,” Burgos said. “We started off hot, in the first inning Will shut them down the whole game. When they got the hit in the last inning to tie the game up, it broke my heart a little bit. I was at first base about to cry because it could have been my last game. But I had confidence in Danny to get the job done and for him to strike out the next batter, I just knew he could do it.”
That set the stage for Gajda’s late-inning heroics.
“For Gajda, a sophomore, to step up in a big spot like that is unbelievable,” Burgos said. “I’m happy he could get it done for us.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org