DARIEN — Monday was essentially a play-in game for the St. Joseph baseball team, and the Cadets played like it.
Needing a win to clinch an FCIAC tournament berth, St. Joseph used a five-run seventh inning to down Darien 8-4 on the road.
“We needed to win to get in,” said Cadets coach Jim Chaves, whose team now sits at fourth in the conference with Staples on the docket for Tuesday’s regular-season finale. “Going into tomorrow we control our own destiny having a home game. The kids are juiced up for the playoff-type atmosphere and that’s what they got here today.”
St. Joseph leadoff hitter Stephen Paolini started the game with a single and a stolen base and came around to score on a Jimmy Evans single to grab a quick 1-0 lead for the Cadets (13-6, 10-5 FCIAC) .
Darien (13-6, 10-5) would tie it in the second when Max Gasvoda doubled off the wall in left and Nick Conte singled him in.
The teams played scoreless ball for the next three innings as the pitchers settled in.
St. Joseph starter Hadyn Gourley went six innings, allowing three runs and Darien’s Justin Jordan (2 1/3innings, one run, three strikeouts) and Henry Williams (2 2/3 innings, no runs, five strikeouts) showed their top-of-the-rotation stuff.
It could have been tempting to keep either pitcher in for Darien, especially with the way Williams was dealing, but the Blue Wave used the game as a tune-up for the duo having already clinched a spot in the playoffs.
“We did some unconventional things today and that’s by design,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “We wanted to win this game, but at the same time we need to have guys at the end of the week. We can’t get caught up in the moment in a tight ballgame and lose one of those guys for Friday.”
Finn Batson walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth and eventually scored on Henry Williams’ fielder’s choice to stake Darien to a 2-1 lead.
St. Joseph would grab the lead again in the sixth on Charlie Pagliarini’s two-run blast to right-center.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate,” the third baseman said. “So, I was happy to get a good swing on the ball and help my team out.”
After Darien tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth courtesy of a Conte sacrifice fly, it was Pagliarini helping his team again, this time by keeping the bat on his shoulders.
Pagliarini worked a bases-loaded walk to drive in the go-ahead run and Jack Mathews and Connor Murphy added two-run doubles to give the Cadets a comfortable cushion.
Darien scratched out a run in the seventh on an RBI single from Sean O’Malley, but left the bases loaded as St. Joseph’s Trent Price got a strike out and fly out to end the game.
“A lot of times that’s what it comes down to,” Scott said. “Trying to avoid the crooked number. And the game got away from us late.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Pagliarini, St. Joseph. The junior captain came out of his funk Monday, giving his team a late lead twice. First with a two-run home run in the sixth, then a bases-loaded walk in the seventh.
“Baseball is a frustrating game,” Pagliarini said. “You have to stay positive, keep swinging and keep your head and try to put a good swing on a ball.”
WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME?
In this case, Darien does.
Right fielder Finn Batson threw out a runner trying to score from second to end the third, and second baseman Nick Conte gunned down another on a double-steal attempt to end the fourth.
ST. JOSEPH 8, DARIEN 4
ST. JOSEPH 1 0 0 0 0 2 5—8 8 2
DARIEN 0 1 0 0 1 1 1—4 8 3
Records: St. Joseph 13-6, 10-5 FCIAC; Darien 13-6, 10-5. Batteries: SJ—Hadyn Gourley (W), Trent Price (7, S) and Aaron Kirby; D—Justin Jordan, Henry Williams (3), Jackson Vaught (6, L) and Arthur Xanthos. Highlights: SJ—Hadyn Gourley went six innings on the mound, allowing three runs and striking out four. Charlie Pagliarini hit a two-run home run. D—Henry Williams went 2.1 innings in relief, striking out five.