DARIEN — Typically, veteran leadership is a big part of winning in FCIAC baseball.
In their latest victory, however, the Darien Blue Wave leaned on a pair of young pitchers.
Sophomore Trace Florio and freshman Karson Drake combined to allow two runs on six hits over nine innings as the Wave topped No. 9 Ridgefield 3-2 Tuesday afternoon at Darien High School.
The Wave scored the walk-off victory when senior James Louis hit a hard chopper that Ridgefield third baseman Thomas Gioffre couldn’t handle, allowing Darien’s Glen Fay to race home.
— Darien H.S. Athletics (@DHSbluewave) April 30, 2019
The run made a winner out of Drake, who delivered a tough performance in relief of Florio.
“Both guys were great,” Darien head coach Mike Scott said of his pitchers. “Trace Florio made his first varsity start, he’s going up against one of the top teams in the league and the state and he kept them in check for five-plus. And then Karson Drake, the freshman, coming in and just getting the job done with a gutsy effort. I’m really proud of those guys.”
In the decisive inning, Fay singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and went to third on a groundout. Louis swung and missed at the first two pitches from Ridgefield’s Matt Colucci, but was then able to put the ball in play for the winning run.
“At first my mentality was that I was just going to try and hit the ball as hard as I can, and then I whiffed on both of them,” Louis said. “So I stepped back, took a deep breath and just tried to put the ball in play.”
Both teams had opportunities to win the game, but couldn’t get the big hit when needed. Darien (9-4) stranded 13 runners, while the Tigers (10-4) had runners in scoring position in three of the final four innings, and also had a runner thrown out on an attempted steal of home in the top of the ninth.
For Ridgefield, it was a frustrating loss in which its offense just didn’t click.
“We’ve just got to hit,” Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri said. “Unfortunately, our M.O. this year has been that we rely too much on our pitching and Matt Deluca. We don’t do enough situational hitting and we haven’t gotten a clutch hit all year, aside from a spot against Greenwich. Guys have just got to swing the bat.”
Florio pitched the first 52/3 innings for Darien, allowing both Tigers’ runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out two. Drake relieved with two outs in the sixth and pitched the final three and one-third innings, allowing two hits and three walks while fanning three.
“Trace being a sophomore just came out here and did his job very well,” Louis said. “He did his thing and then Karson came in and shut it down. Our defense did what they needed to do to get the job done. This was a great win today.”
The Tigers also received a solid performance from Colucci, who pitched the final four and one-third innings and took the loss. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed one run on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
“It’s a shame because I thought we wasted a great effort from Colucci,” Fabbri said. “He came out there and pitched big in big spots.”
“Our guys were commenting that those were the hardest fastballs they’ve seen all year and they had a hard time adjusting to the speed,” Scott said. “But we kept getting opportunities and it just a matter of time before we broke through.”
The Wave scored once in the bottom of the second when Aaron Sears laced a two-out RBI single to right to drive in Ben Olson.
Ridgefield broke through in the top of the fifth when Cole Blackwell walked, stole second and then scored on a base hit by Jack Gonzalez.
Darien missed a golden opportunity to blow the game open in the fifth after loading the bases with no outs.
Devyn Kipphut got one run home on a sac fly for a 2-1 Wave lead, and Colucci then relieved and walked Fay to reload the bases. However, Colucci minimized the damage by striking out the next two hitters to keep the deficit at one.
Ridgefield tied it again with two outs in the top of the sixth. Joe Pastore doubled to right and Colin LaCoille followed with a single to plate pinch-runner Alex Hanna.
Drake got out of a jam in the top of the seventh after the Tigers had put runners on the corners with one out. A fly out and a groundout ended the inning.
Kipphut doubled with one out in the home half of the seventh and went to third on a fielder’s choice groundout, but Olson few out to deep left to end the inning.
Speed nearly killed the Wave in the top of the ninth, as James Briody chopped a ball high in the air in front of the plate and beat the throw to first for a single. He then stole second and third with one out.
Drake got the second out swinging, and then threw out Briody stealing at home to end that threat.
Darien went on to win the game in the bottom of that inning.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Trace Florio and Karson Drake, Darien: The two pitchers combined to allow just two runs over nine innings. Florio started and worked 52/3, with Drake pitching out of a few jams to get the win over the final 31/3 innings.
“Yesterday we had a scrappy Warde team, today we have another tough one with Ridgefield, tomorrow we have Ludlowe and then New Canaan on Friday and you can throw the records out the window with that rivalry. It’s a tough week but we’ve got to keep pushing.” — Darien head coach Mike Scott