— McMahonBaseball (@mcmahonbaseball) May 16, 2019
STAMFORD — Destiny in their hands. Opportunity lost.
The Westhill baseball team saw its dream of making the FCIAC playoffs dashed Thursday as Ridgefield posted a 6-2 road triumph at Vikings Field.
The loss left Westhill at 12-8 overall but 8-8 in the FCIAC. The Vikings’ defeat meant that Warde High (9-7 league) earned the No. 7 playoff seed for Saturday with McMahon High (9-7 league) getting the No. 8 seed.
Warde battles No. 2 seed Ludlowe while McMahon travels to No. 1 seed Staples for Saturday’s quarterfinals.
The entire McMahon baseball squad made the trip to Westhill Thursday to view their fate live.
“We had to have a lot of things go our way to qualify for the playoffs,” McMahon’s veteran baseball coach John Cross said. “After our (3-2) loss to Warde (last Tuesday), I looked at a lot of tiebreaker scenarios where we wouldn’t get into the playoffs. Once (Westhill pitching ace) Montana Semmel (7-0) beat New Canaan last Wednesday, we knew Westhill had control of its fate.
“We need another method to break a three-way tie for playoff spots,” Cross continued. “We’re fortunate things worked out for us. This is special for our kids since it is McMahon’s first time in the FCIAC baseball playoffs in seven years.”
Ridgefield (12-8, 8-8 FCIAC) — which was eliminated from the playoff hunt last Wednesday after losing 2-1 to Warde — never gave Westhill a chance at hope Thursday.
The Tigers took a 4-0 lead after two innings thanks to two-out RBI hits.
Designated hitter Joe Pastore belted a long two-run homer over the center field fence in the first inning for 2-0.
“It was tough after losing to Warde. But we knew we had the chance to knock out Westhill today. Scoring early was a key,” Pastore said. “I got a hold of a pitch for the homer. That momentum carried us forward.”
In the second inning with two outs and a runner on third, Ridgefield lefty hitters Johnny Briody and Nick Cullinan lashed RBI singles for a 4-0 lead.
Briody collected two hits, a walk, three RBI and two runs scored.
“We’ve had struggles hitting (Ridgefield had lost four of its last five games entering Thursday). So getting the early lead was huge,” Briody said. “I just shortened my swing with two strikes.”
The 4-0 edge allowed Ridgefield starting pitcher Jack Costello to settle in.
The righthander struck out five, walked one and stranded four Vikings in 4 2/3 innings.
“My plan was to throw strikes. I knew our defense was solid,” Costello said. “My curve was working well so I got more strikeouts than expected. The early runs we got were huge.”
Westhill’s best offensive moment came with two outs and none on in the bottom of the fifth.
Seniors Shane Hackett, Noah Skaug and T.J. Wainwright linked singles for 4-1. Wainwright’s hit came off Ridgefield reliever Ryan Patterson.
Seniors Montana Semmel and Bob Zmarzlak drew walks for 4-2 with the bases loaded. Patterson induced an infield pop-up to end the threat.
Ridgefield answered with two runs on Briody’s one-out, two-run single in the top of the sixth for 6-2.
Patterson got the final six outs without incident and Westhill was left to prepare for state tournament action.
“It’s disappointing,” Westhill’s veteran baseball coach D.J. Mulvany said. “For these kids (including 15 seniors) to not get into the FCIAC playoffs and not experience what an accomplishment it is to be a part of that is tough. I feel like I let the kids down.
“The seniors did a lot for the program over the last four years. They worked hard,” Mulvany continued. “Ridgefield was scrappy and battled. They put pressure on us and kept our bats in check.”
Ridgefield also looks ahead to state tournament play.
“I’m so proud of the determination I saw from our kids after Wednesday’s tough loss,” Ridgefield interim coach Mike Scarlett said. “They were fired up. We had been just missing on offensive rallies but we got the early runs today.”