TRUMBULL >> Fairfield Warde High School’s baseball team suffered its most lopsided defeat at the hands of the Trumbull Eagles, but has since had two of the program’s most significant wins over its FCIAC rivals.
Warde, which defeated Trumbull to win the FCIAC championship six days earlier, again knocked off the Eagles with a spot in the Class LL state tournament semifinals on the line.
Sophomore pitcher Reece Maniscalco threw a complete game to lift the Mustangs to a 5-1 win at Trumbull in the Class LL quarterfinals on Friday.
“I think it motivated us in the championship game,” Warde head coach Mark Caron said of a 17-3 regular-season loss to the Eagles. “Winning the championship game certainly gave us the confidence that we can play with them.”
The No. 15-seeded Mustangs shut out Trumbull 4-0 in the FCIAC title game then promptly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the state tourney battle – before the Eagles even came to bat.
Leadoff hitter Tommy Luckner got things started with a walk, and Nick Nardone and Michael Foley loaded the bases on a single and hit by pitch, respectively. Giacomo Brancato drove in a run on a single which reloaded the bases. Christian Sabella then hit a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Anthony Miller and Zach Weinstein followed with RBI singles.
That early boost – Warde strung together four of its eight base hits in the opening frame – was welcomed by Maniscalco.
“That was absolutely huge,” Maniscalco said. “We’re always putting up runs early and that sets the tone for the game. It’s huge.”
In the eyes of Caron, Luckner is the biggest piece of the table-setting puzzle. He is, after all, the lead off man.
“I think it starts with Tommy,” the coach said. “Tommy’s been phenomenal in the one hole. He’s really set the tone.”
Caron added that the rest of the hitters toward the top and middle of the order are solid.
“We’ve been focusing on getting an early lead,” Brancato said.
Maniscalco, who throws a fastball, changeup and curve, had a five-hit performance. The pitcher allowed only singles, issued four walks, and hit a batter. He escaped trouble a couple of times on 6-4-3 double plays. He struck out four.
Trumbull got a run back in the bottom of the first but the Mustangs held a 4-1 lead until getting the run back in the fifth. Foley was hit by a pitch, stole second, and went to third on an errant throw when he stole the base. He scored on a long sacrifice fly to center off Sabella’s bat.
Miller followed with a single and stole second. He was tagged out at home trying to score on a hit by Dakota DeJardy. Maniscalco made sure that would-be run wouldn’t matter.
The FCIAC title was Warde’s first and this is the deepest the program has gone in state tourney play since the single Fairfield High School program won it all in 2002.
“We’re doing things with this program that we’ve never done before,” said Caron, adding that with every win he tells the team members to continue raising the bar.
The next rung for that bar is in in the championship round. The Mustangs will face No. 3 Southington on June 10 for the right to play in the title game.
“Hopefully we can get the next one, too,” Brancato said.