DARIEN — The Staples Wreckers plated two runs in the top of the second inning in their baseball game against Darien on Monday.
The way senior Chad Knight was pitching, it might as well have been 10.
Knight delivered a dominating performance, firing a three-hit shutout as the Wreckers defeated the Blue Wave 3-0 in a battle of FCIAC contenders at Darien High School. The hard-throwing right-hander walked two, struck out 10 and allowed just one runner to get as far as second base.
“We played really good defense and Chad really threw the ball well,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “He was dominating out there.”
“I felt great out there and Ben Schattman, our catcher, really called a great game and was able to calm me down,” Knight said. “I really enjoyed coming out here today. Darien’s a great team, they always put up a fight and it was a good game.”
Staples, which is 14-2 overall and 11-1 in the FCIAC, has won 11 of its last 12 games, and leads the race for the FCIAC’s top seed.
Darien dropped to 10-6 overall and 9-4 in the conference, and is hoping to see the Wreckers again in the postseason.
“We faced a tough pitcher,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “I thought our at-bats got better as the game went on, but this is something we have to learn from. We’ve seen him now and hopefully, if we run into him again down the road, we can make some adjustments on him and be in a better position next time.”
Staples rapped out eight hits against three Wave pitchers, scoring twice against starter James Louis in the second inning and adding one more run on a home run by Zach Zobel in the fifth.
The Wreckers had base-runners in every inning, but couldn’t get the big hit to blow the game open.
“I was a little disappointed in the lineup with runners on base,” McFarland said. “We had a lot of traffic, guys on second with one out, and nobody really came through with the hit. We need to work on getting those tack-ons.”
Still, with Knight on point, Darien wasn’t able to generate many threats. The Wave’s Mac McLean walked leading off the bottom of the first, but he was thrown out attempting to steal by Schattman, a play which Knight credited with setting the tone.
In the bottom of the second, Darien’s Karson Drake walked, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a fielder’s choice, but he was stranded there when Knight fanned the next two batters. That was the Wave’s only runner in scoring position, as Knight started rolling.
“He’s got a high baseball IQ and a passion for the game,” McFarland said of his pitcher. “Nobody will outwork him. I could say a million things about him, but he’s just an unreal baseball player for us.”
Staples got all the runs Knight needed in the top of the second, when they scored two runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batter.
Darien starter Louis walked Adam Petro leading off that inning and, with one out, Andrew Moy singled and Chris Veneruso walked to load the bases.
Blake Lawrence then plated Petro on an infield single for a 1-0 lead.
Louis got Knight to hit a grounder to third and the Wave forced Moy at home for the second out, but Drew Rogers was hit by a pitch to force in the second run.
“Any pitcher likes having run support, so any time we’re able to get ahead like that, especially against a team like Darien, you definitely feel more comfortable on the mound,” Knight said.
“(Louis) labored through a couple of innings, not having his best location,” Scott said of his pitcher. “In that second inning, it’s not like they beat him all over the park, but they had a couple of seeing-eye singles and a couple of walks and then it’s a 2-0 ballgame. Credit to Chad, he makes 2-0 feel like 6-0.”
Although the Wreckers had runners on base in every inning, their only other run came in the fifth inning, when Zobel belted a solo home run to left.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Chad Knight, Staples. Knight pitched a three-hit shutout against a string Darien lineup, walking just two and striking out 10.
“Darien has a phenomenal coach and phenomenal players. They’ve had a lot of success in the last few years, so we have a lot of respect for them and I’m sure they have a lot of respect for us. Any time we get to play a game against them, we have a lot of fun.” — Staples senior Chad Knight
STAPLES 3, DARIEN 0
STAPLES 020 010 0 — 3 8 0
DARIEN 000 000 0 — 0 3 0
Batteries: Staples: Chad Knight and Ben Schattman; Darien: James Louis, Mac McLean (5), Tim Billingham (6), and Ben Olson
Highlights: Staples: Knight pitched a three-hit shutout, walked two and struck out 10; Zach Zobel had a solo home run; Adam Petro was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run; Andrew Moy was 2-for-3; Darien: Karson Drake and Mac McLean each had a single and a walk
Records: Staples 14-2 overall, 11-1 FCIAC; Darien 10-6, 9-4