STAMFORD — Anthony Frangiose has been wearing out pitchers and writers alike all summer. As a 15-year-old playing on Stamford’s Senior Legion baseball team, often against players three years his senior, Frangiose has been raising and re-raising the bar batting cleanup in a star-studded lineup, then exhausting the adjective supply for those of us who make a living trying to describe his actions.
Frangiose reached new heights as afternoon turned to evening on Wednesday at Cubeta Stadium, first sullying a spectacular effort by Trumbull’s Nikko Arganese. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with a full count, two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied at 1-1 in the first game of a best of three playoff series, Frangiose rocketed Arganese’s 142nd and final pitch of the night over the leftfield fence. His first career home run in the historic stadium gave Stamford a 5-1 win and sent us back to the thesauruses again trying to describe the scene.
It isn’t easy.
Arganese, who had given up just two hits to that point in a game that was coached as a must-win by the Trumbull staff — Arganese threw nearly the same number of pitches on Saturday — refused to give in with a fastball to Frangiose in what turned into an eight-pitch at bat. Frangiose fouled off three pitches until, he said, getting a slider that stayed up enough to give him time to salivate.
“He just hung it and I knew it was gone,” Frangiose said. “It feels so good. Especially in that spot. I love pressure situations. It felt so good, right off the bat.”
Frangiose’s heroics served almost like a giant eraser that expunged everything that came before it in what turned out to be a highly entertaining game. There was a great pitchers’ duel, terrific defensive plays, awful baserunning and strategy that was debatable only because the decisions largely were not clear cut.
Trumbull, which finished in a tie for second place, five games behind Stamford in zone play, looked like a team that twice had to win elimination games over the weekend, while Stamford, now 25-3, had some of the lethargy after six off days.
“Small things win big games,” Stamford coach Kevin Murray said. “We had a lot of big plays. Defensively we were very sound, We struggled with the bats.”
With Randy Polonia unavailable because of a college class, Murray said he still went with the plan of starting Grant Stone, who has had a fantastic summer, on the mound.
“We knew it was Grant the whole time,” said Murray, who also had Kevin Stone as an option. “Just the way he has been throwing all year. We wanted to set up the best defense behind him because he’s been throwing strikes.”
Kevin Stone, at first base, and rightfielder Shawn Urbano each threw out a runner at third base. Johnny Spoto, filling in for Polonia at shortstop, made a great throw on a ball in the hole to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning, a huge play with Trumbull nursing a 1-0 lead at the time.
Stamford tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Frangiose drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on Ryan Lee’s sacrifice fly.
With Kevin Stone and Polonia dangling in its thoughts, Trumbull stayed with Arganese, hoping to steal a one-game lead and put the pressure on Stamford to have to win two games on Thursday.
It almost worked. But Grant Stone scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings and Billy DeVito grabbed the baton and went the rest of the way for the win.
It was all fun stuff, but the memories were blurred by night’s end as all anyone was talking about was Frangiose. A three-year age deficit may not make a difference at Yankee Stadium, but it is sizable one at Cubeta Stadium.
“I just love baseball,” Frangiose said in trying to explain his breakout summer. “I love playing it, I love being with the team. It’s so much fun all around.”
Frangiose was teased by his teammates during postgame interviews, while Murray looked on, part bemusement, part, no doubt, continued amazement.
“He’s been hitting the ball all year and hitting in big spots, two outs,” Murray said. “He’s not afraid of anything and that at bat shows what he’s all about. I never would think a 15 year old would come up in a big state game with two outs and hit a grand slam. He’s a strong kid and he loves the game. He has no fear. He just wants to be out here playing baseball.”
Murray said Pete Horn would be the likely game two starter, with Kevin Stone and Polonia manning the infield. This isn’t a roll of the dice because Murray and his team don’t want to face a possible deciding game afterward.
“I have two decks of cards,” Murray said. “I have eight aces. Today I went with the ace of spades. Tomorrow I’ll come back with the ace of clubs.”
Murray could have been talking about one of the seven other pitchers. Or he could have meant Frangiose.
On this day, it was hard to tell.