Darien, New Canaan rivalry adapts
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, May 10, 2018
There was something pretty cool about the Darien baseball team’s 3-2 victory over New Canaan on Monday.
Anytime the geographical neighbors do battle it’s a headline, and in some of the bigger sports like football, hockey or lacrosse, the physicality has a lot to do with the intensity of the rivalry.
I think Monday was an example of how that same competitiveness is exuded in different ways. There was such a calm, business-like approach by both teams. Sure, both were amped when they scored, and there was the usual chirping of the opposing pitcher that we see in every high school baseball game. And maybe it was because both team’s aces—New Canaan’s Zach Lopez and Darien’s Henry Williams—were dealing that was the reason for the general tameness of the game.
But I think it was more an undivided concentration on winning from both squads.
Williams, a junior, said the start was the biggest of his career thus far.
“This is awesome,” Williams said after the game. “I had a start last year against Staples in the quarterfinals of the FCIAC tournament, but I wanted to win this one more. It’s New Canaan, I have a bigger role this year as a junior and I really wanted it.”
Those three words: “it’s New Canaan.”
The rivalry is such between the schools that a statement like that really says it all, coming from either side. Going into the contest, Darien coach Mike Scott knew that his team would be ready despite playing five games in five days last week.
“If you can’t get up for a game like this,” Scott said. “And can’t get fired up for New Canaan, then nothing is going to fire you up.”
What made the game even better was its crispness and competitiveness. A quick, clean one-run game at this level is more the exception than the rule at this point.
Consider that New Canaan played Brien McMahon last week in a game that went nine innings and lasted 3 ½ hours before the Rams walked off with a 15-14 victory.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do against your rival,” New Canaan coach Geoff Lambert said. “Come out here and play the best baseball you can.”
While the turf field itself is a luxury few others in the state have, the watching a game at Darien can be difficult for fans.
Monday however, was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, with a group of New Canaan students camped behind center field (respectfully enough) heckling the Wave players.
When the Darien lacrosse practice ended, the players lined the outfield fence, cheering on their baseball brethren.
A former player once told me that if Darien and New Canaan played tic-tac-toe at the center of a football field, there would be a packed house to see it.
I don’t think he’s wrong.
When Darien’s Justin Jordan locked down the save in the top of the seventh, the lefty centerfielder/pitcher, who is normally as even-keeled as they come, let out a yell and a fist-pump, showing just how much a mid-May game can mean.
When it was over, Lambert wasn’t disappointed with the loss.
His first words to me after the game were, “how fun was that?”
He gets it.