BY KYLE BRENNAN
BRISTOL — Tyler Giambra wasn’t surprised when he sealed his historic no-hitter in the seventh inning of the Class M baseball semifinals. The Woodland senior right-hander knew it was coming almost all night.
“I knew that I was going to throw a no-hitter since the second inning,” Giambra said. “I looked up at the zero [on the scoreboard] and there was no shot I was allowing a hit.”
Giambra struck out 11 with just one walk and one batter reaching on an error as the No. 7-seeded Hawks beat No. 19 Jonathan Law, 3-0, on June 7 at Muzzy Field.
The no-no clinched Woodland’s first-ever berth in a state final, which is set for Saturday against No. 4 Joel Barlow at 7 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown.
Woodland coach Steve Bainer said he knew Giambra had his best stuff even earlier than the pitcher did.
“I could see it in the first pitch,” Bainer said. “I know Tyler’s going to compete. He was the one who dealt three hits against St. Paul two weeks ago [in the Naugatuck Valley League semifinals]. That’s his M.O. I knew from the jump that his cutter was nasty. A lot of guys swung and missed on that cutter.”
Giambra went perfect through the first three innings, including seven consecutive strikeouts from the Nos. 2 through 8 hitters. Woodland finally gave him a lead in the fourth when cleanup hitter Michael Belcher’s safety squeeze bunt plated Ryan Montini for a 1-0 edge.
“I was thinking that if we could get into the run column, the way [Giambra] was throwing, it was going to be an uphill battle for them to score a run,” Bainer said. “At that point, in the fourth inning, 0-0 with only one hit in the game, we had a chance to put a run across, so we had to.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Montini added insurance by crushing an 0-2 curveball over the 340-foot right-center-field fence for a two-run homer.
“It was a hanger,” Montini said. “It was a good pitch and I put a normal swing on it, and it went. I don’t even really remember it. I knew I hit it good, and I lost it going around first base.”
“Ryan Montini is probably the most underrated hitter in the state,” Bainer said. “He’s had the biggest home runs, the biggest hits all year. He’s been an absolute dude for us. The way he swung at that second curveball, I thought that if they threw him another breaking ball, it could be trouble.”
And it gave Giambra the last spark he needed on his 90-pitch night.
“When he hit that, I knew we had it in the bank,” Giambra said.
Giambra, who said his arsenal consisted of 90% cutters, sat down Law’s three-, four- and five-hitters in the seventh inning, inducing a foul pop-up to third baseman Matt Deegan for the 21st out.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Giambra said. “To have my teammates dogpile me after I threw a no-hitter to get us to the championship, it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
Montini said the team had plenty of confidence in Giambra, who’s worked as Woodland’s No. 2 pitcher behind Belcher all season. Belcher threw a complete game in the Hawks’ 2-1 win over No. 2 Northwestern in the quarterfinals June 4, leaving Giambra to take over for the semis.
“He’s thrown well all year,” Montini said. “Belch can only pitch so many games, and we’ve won without him. Really after the first inning, I was like, wow, I haven’t really seen this from him before.”
Woodland finally reached its first state final after losing in the semifinals in 2007, 2019 and 2021. Bainer gave credit to those teams in helping lay the foundations for the Hawks (21-6) to make their run.
“It’s humbling,” Bainer said. “There have been a lot of good teams that have come through here.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN