After recording the final out against rival Westhill last week, the Stamford baseball team came streaming out of the dugout toward relief pitcher Matt Wirz.
The Black Knights jumped and threw water on each other like they had just won the FCIAC championship.
To Stamford, that win over Westhill not only gave them the city title but an ounce of redemption in what has been a disappointing season.
The truth is, no team from Stamford will be playing in the FCIAC tournament when it begins later this week.
It is a shame there will be no representatives from the city in the league playoffs the year when the semifinals and finals return to Cubeta Stadium after years being played at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
What began as a season of high hopes in the city has come down to Westhill qualifying for the Class LL tournament with three games to go and Stamford needing to win its final four games to qualify.
The Black Knights have won two of those contests beginning with the win over Westhill and continuing with an upset victory over Wilton on Monday.
If Stamford can defeat Bridgeport Central and Trinity Catholic to close the season, it too will get an invitation to the LL tournament.
That would actually tick off two of the three boxes of goals the team set prior to the year by winning the city championship and qualifying for states.
In the preseason, Stamford had dreams of contending for a FCIAC playoff spot but it each game the wheels came off in different ways.
At times, it seemed like Stamford was inventing new ways to lose be it because of physical errors in the field, mental errors running the bases, misjudging fly balls and just occasional lapses in focus on the field.
The talent was there, especially up the middle with Danny Collazo in centerfield, his brother David at shortstop and catcher Nico Kydes behind the plate.
Against Westhill, the team played a game lacking physical or mental errors, finally living up to their potential.
That continued against Wilton and if the team can keep it rolling and make states, the Black Knight are capable of pulling off an early-round upset.
That is if the Black Knights can keep it together for seven full innings.
“We know we have to scrap and claw for runs, that’s how it has been all season,” Stamford coach Rit Lacomis said. “We played a clean game (against Westhill) that was the message to the team and they did it. That was what I was most proud of, that we finally played a clean game.”
Westhill’s season was a bit more perplexing.
The Vikings came into the season ranked in the GametimeCT top 10 and picked by many to be one of the best teams in the FCIAC.
Things went according to plan early on as the team raced out to a 5-1 record, out-scoring opponents 55-10 in that stretch.
The offense was booming and the pitching was on point.
Then the wheels came off in a big way as Westhill would lose 9 of its next 12 games and not win back-to-back games the rest of the season.
Friday’s win over Darien qualified them for states but Monday’s loss to Ridgefield ended any hopes of sneaking into the FCIAC playoffs.
The win over Darien was also big because staff ace John MacDonald was in control all game, picking up the win over one of the top teams in the FCIAC.
“We had an outside shot to get into FCIACs but we really needed to get to eight wins just to make sure we are playing some kind of postseason baseball,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “It was important for (MacDonald) to come out and dominate (against Darien) and get the win for us. I’m proud of how he stepped up.”
MacDonald had faced a gauntlet of the league’s best teams this season, also taking the hill against Staples and St. Joe’s, two games the Vikings lost.
In both of those losses, the Vikings did not score any runs in support of MacDonald.
That was sort of how the season went for the Vikings.
When the hitters hit well, the pitching was not there and when the pitching was going well, the bats fell silent.
Westhill was shutout four times this season, a surprising turn of events for a lineup that did so much damage early in the season.
“We haven’t hit enough. You have to score more than three runs in a high school baseball game,” Mulvany said. “Offensively we’ve been sluggish and not very aggressive and at the end of the day, that all points back to me. I have to do a better job getting these guys ready to play.”
Still, the Vikings will be considered a dangerous lower seed in the opening round of the Class LL tournament with MacDonald pitching.
Trinity Catholic may once again be near the bottom of the league standings but the improvements in the team is noticeable from a season ago.
The Crusaders were right there with chances to win a few games against the better teams, falling 5-3 to Staples, 8-6 to Ridgefield and 5-4 to New Canaan.
A few seniors will depart but the Crusaders have a solid group of juniors and sophomores who should be battle-tested come next season which will be coach Ryan Quinn’s second campaign.