MILFORD -- On the grandest of stages, margins for error shrink to their very smallest. And through three rounds of Class L baseball tournament play, no team knows this better than No. 2 Jonathan Law.
Following a 1-0 win over No. 31 New Fairfield Monday, the Lawmen topped No. 7 Darien 3-0 in the quarterfinals Friday behind a complete-game shutout from Kevin Johnson. Both teams finished with three hits, as an early Blue Wave error and three second-inning walks proved to be the difference. Lawman third baseman Jake Rouse went 2-for-3 and knocked in all three runs.
Law (21-4) will face No. 14 Masuk Tuesday in the state semifinals.
"We knew they were a good baseball team and we were pretty evenly matched coming into this," Lawmen coach Greg Simlar said. "So, we knew we had to play our best game ... And today, Kevin was as sharp with his control as I've seen him all year."
Despite working on short rest, Johnson -- who went the distance against New Fairfield -- struck out 10, including nine through the first four frames and a game-ending punchout of Darien captain Brendan Donohue. To match Johnson, the Blue Wave (17-7) placed regular first baseman Connor Davey on the mound against a heavy left-handed lineup from the Lawmen. However, Davey could only last for 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs while he struck out three hitters and walked four.
The junior hurler came one strike away from escaping a bases-loaded jam in the second when Rouse lined a base hit to left field to hand Law a 2-0 lead.
"We were one defensive miscue and one base hit away from a 0-0 ballgame in the seventh," Darien coach Mike Scott said. "And that's baseball at any level. You make one little miscue, allow a team to extend an inning and they make you pay. It was too bad they made us pay today."
One half-inning later, the Blue Wave nearly answered Rouse's RBI single when Mike Maccarone took a leadoff walk and quickly advanced into scoring position. Johnson then sat down the next three hitters, stranding Maccarone at third. In the top of the fourth, a two-out Peter Archey single was quickly coupled with a Craig Miller walk, when the Lawmen ace rung up Bobby Fitzpatrick to end the threat.
"The umpire was giving the outside corner and the other team wasn't really sure what to do with that outside pitch," Johnson said. "So, we just lived there all day."
Law kept its 2-0 lead through the bottom of the sixth, when Rouse brought home the final run of the game on a sacrifice fly to center. In the away half of the inning, Darien's final offensive rally came to a close when Archey was caught stealing third after Craig Miller had worked a nine-pitch walk.
"These are young ballplayers and it was a tough miscue at that point," Scott said. "They're still learning to be in this kind of spot and that's high school baseball, unfortunately."
Class M quarterfinals
DARIEN 000 000 0--0 3 2
LAW 020 001 X--3 3 0
Records: Jonathan Law 21-4; Darien 17-7. Batteries: D-- Connor Davey (L) Luke Mangan (4), Brendan Donohue (5) and T.J. Adiletta; JL--Kevin Johnson (W) and Dillon Rocha. Highlights: D-- Peter Archey went 2-for-3 and stole three bases. JL--Senior pitcher Kevin Johnson pitched a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts. Jake Rouse went 2-for-3 with three RBIs.