DARIEN -- For the first time since 2009, Blue Wave baseball team will have a chance to don the FCIAC crown.
Darien topped Westhill 9-4 Wednesday behind a four-run fifth inning that snapped a tied score and ultimately decided the game. The win secured the Blue Wave (14-5, 12-5 FCIAC) a berth in this year's conference tournament, which begins Tuesday with quarterfinal play. The Vikings (10-9, 10-7) remain in contention for a spot in the FCIAC bracket, but will need a win from Warde at Ridgefield Friday to have a chance at earning one.
"It's amazing," Darien second baseman Brendan Donohue said of making the playoffs. "It feels great. We've been talking ever since the end of last year that we're going to have a strong team and to come out and have it, it feels great. But we've still got a lot of work to do. We're going to come out and bring it to whoever we play on Tuesday."
Dan Rotkiewicz took the loss for Westhill on the mound, exiting after an inning-opening walk to Daly Hebert in the fifth. Reliever Ron Jackson proceeded to surrender run-scoring hits to three of the next four Wave batters, pushing the score to 8-4. Back in the third inning, Jackson slugged a solo home run for the only extra-base hit of the game by the Vikings.
In fact, after Jackson's long ball, only one Westhill hit would travel beyond the infield, a harmless flyout to left off the bat of Dante Fargnoli.
"We just couldn't string anything together," Vikings coach DJ Mulvany said. "We had some hitters counts, but we took a defensive approach. Instead of looking to gear up and hit the ball hard, we got defensive, and once we fell behind, we started pressing a bit and chasing stuff out of the zone."
Following a rocky start, Wave junior Stephen Barston picked up the win through six innings of four-run ball that included five strikeouts. Westhill's Luke Dawson drew first blood in the opening frame by lacing a two-out single, which scored junior John Spoto. The Vikings then doubled their lead two innings later on Jackson's bomb, only to watch the Wave answer in the home half of the frame.
In his second at-bat, Donohue crushed an RBI double to right, scoring Michael Maccarone. Two batters later, Hebert brought Donohue home on a single to center that tied the game. Further into the third, Rotkiewicz picked up a second out and induced Wave catcher Anthony DiMeglio into a high fly ball that was dropped in left field. As a result, Darien scratched two more runs across for a 4-2 lead.
Not even one half-inning later, Westhill responded by knotting the score on two base hits and questionable Darien defense. However, it was a spectacular defensive play that kept the Vikings from reclaiming the lead when back-up third baseman Jake Frasca stabbed a sharp groundball with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Frasca, who entered the game in the third frame for ill starter George Reed, finished with two hits and an RBI.
Darien 9, Westhill 4
WESTHILL 101 200 0--4 7 1
DARIEN 004 041 X--9 14 1
Records: Westhill 10-9, 10-7 FCIAC; Darien 14-5, 12-5 FCIAC. Batteries: W--Dan Rotkiewicz (L), Ron Jackson (5), Austin Nardi (5) and Mike Rossi; D--Stephen Barston (W), Luke Mangan (7) and Anthony DiMeglio. Highlights: W--Ron Jackson blasted a solo home run to left-center in the third inning. D--Senior captain Brendan Donohue clubbed two doubles, and Mike O'Malley collected two RBI.