Staples hands Darien first FCIAC baseball loss
DARIEN -- A familiar name is slowly creeping up the FCIAC baseball standings at just the right time.
Staples, which uncharacteristically got off to a 2-3 start in the conference, continued its string of excellent pitching performances that will be cause for concern for any of the other title contenders.
The Wreckers all but wrapped up their eighth straight playoff berth, this time by knocking off league-leader Darien 8-2 on Friday afternoon. The loss was the Blue Wave's first in FCIAC play this season, dropping Darien to 14-1 in the league and 14-3 overall.
"We're a team that's playing good baseball at the right time," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "We took the first 10 games to evaluate what was in the dugout. We've had to move some guys around, put them in the right spots and they're responding."
Meanwhile, the Blue Wave may have learned in important lesson with the postseason just around the corner.
"When you're sitting where we are in the standings, teams are going to want to (beat) you," Darien coach Mike Scott said. "We never want to say it's a good loss, but at the same time it's something we know now we're fallible, and we have to be better to win these types of games."
Staples' Ben Casparius delivered another gem, striking out 11 batters while going the distance in his third start this spring. He scattered four hits and two walks for the win for Staples (13-4, 11-4), which now has eight wins in its last nine games.
"(Casparius) was competing, he was coming right at them," McFarland said. "He was pounding the zone; they hit the ball hard a couple of times, but we made the plays."
The outing came against a lineup that had hit the double-digit mark eight times this season. Staples has given up eight runs in its last four games.
Ross Poulley supplied much of the offensive punch for Staples. He first drove a two-run homer over the center field fence in the second inning to open the scoring.
"It was a 2-0 fastball, a little bit below the letters and slightly away," Poulley said. "I didn't know how many nice fastballs I would get so that's why I wanted to swing."
Poulley added a walk, sac fly, bunt single and a diving stop at first to prevent an extra base hit.
"That's what senior captains do," McFarland said. "He hits a homer, he's going from first to third, he's playing great first base; he's a great player. It was very impressive to watch him today."
The Wreckers plated three runs in the fourth inning despite hitting just one ball out of the infield. That came on an RBI single by Eric Hawes, but two more plated on a wild pitch and an error.
"It was nice to be able to put runs on the board," Poulley said. "Everyone is finding a way to contribute positively."
Staples scored three more times in the seventh to wrap up the win. The Wreckers loaded the bases with no outs before Zach Azadian took a pitch to the helmet to drive in a run. Another run scored on a wild pitch before Poulley's sac fly wrapped up the scoring.
"We gave them too many baserunners," Scott said. "We had a walk, passed ball and then they're in scoring position. You give a good team like Staples extra opportunities eventually they're going to beat you."
Michael O'Malley drove in both runners for Darien, first on a sacrifice fly in the second inning and then on a groundout in the sixth.
Darien has thrived against FCIAC playoff hopefuls in the past week, including handing Wilton and Greenwich defeats. The Blue Wave will face rival New Canaan on Monday in a battle between the top two teams in the league.
"We're playing some of the best teams in the league, this league is relentless as far as teams knocking each other off," Scott said. "I don't think anyone expected us to go undefeated. We're going to learn from this loss and get ready for a big game on Monday.
Staples 8, Darien 2
STAPLES 020 300 3--8 6 2
DARIEN 010 001 0--2 4 0
Records: Staples 13-4, 11-4 FCIAC; Darien 14-3, 14-1. Batteries: D--Anthony DiMeglio (L), Andrew Winsch, Jake Frasca and Winsch, DiMeglio; Highlights: S--Ben Casparius threw a complete game with 11 strikeouts. Ross Poulley went 2-for-2 with a home run, sac fly, walk and two runs scored.