The Darien baseball team went into Saturday with three games under its belt. In contrast, Staples was getting ready for opening day, the victim of two postponements.
The weather for the spring season is unpredictable, with rain and even snow, which occurred last week, wreaking havoc.
The Blue Wave, with a turf field, gets an early-season edge.
“Baseball is a game of consistency, right?” said Darien coach Mike Scott. “So the fact that we can get out there just about every single day allows us a routine and to work and get better and build that consistency. It’s definitely a big advantage, especially this time of the year.”
Postponements are an annual occurrence, more so this year with the season starting a week earlier than usual. Staples, the Class LL champion, had been sitting around until finally opening last weekend and getting a win over Xavier on Drew Rogers’ walkoff home run.
“It’s all hit or miss,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “The weather is the weather. It could be bad next week too. The kids are going crazy. You put them out there for the first time and you are not sure what it is going to look like. Now that you are out there and it is like all right, now we’re into the season.”
Darien’s 3-1 start cannot solely be attributable to having stayed on schedule. First of all there is the question of having a skilled roster, and so far the pitching has been an important attribute.
“You need the horses to win the race,” Scott said. “There’s some talent in the program for sure but at the same time the guys have got to go out there and earn it. It comes with hard work. We don’t expect anyone to give us anything and these guys have a little chip on their shoulder.”
Where the Blue Wave do benefit greatly is being outdoors every day during the preseason. Scott said they have not been on the field just twice, because of last week’s snow.
“You think about all the planning that goes into putting a practice plan together and what you need to accomplish to get better, and that’s next to impossible to get done in the gym with any effectiveness,” Scott said. “I know teams are using the turf on the football field and finding creative ways to do that. It makes it easier how we are planning.”
Getting all their games in also means the Blue Wave will not have to worry about being backed up later on in the year, faced with four-game weeks that affects handling a pitching staff and cuts into practice time.
“You’ve got to bring JV kids up and now you have pitching counts,” McFarland said. “Some position players may have to throw a couple of innings. There are going to be some high-scoring games. Some 11-8s, 10-7s.”
McFarland said the composition of his roster will now have to be altered.
“We’re going to have to get more kids ready, we’re going to have to play more team baseball,” McFarland said. “We might now need a bigger team roster. You can’t go out there with 13 kids anymore. You need 17 or 18. You need some more pitchers and some more infielders because now your infielders are going to go in and pitch an inning. I think it’s good more kids are going to play and the more kids you have, the more depth you have, the better off you are going to be.”
McFarland said the FCIAC-SCC Challenge, with games between teams from what are considered the top two leagues, now becomes less of a priority in terms of pitching. McFarland said he saved his ace, Chad Knight, against Xavier because the Wreckers have four games this week. He will also prioritize the three league games over a meeting with Masuk.
“Masuk is a good team but you won’t throw the pitcher you would like to,” McFarland said.
It has nothing to do with the Blue Wave’s record, but Scott said his players enter each season with an intangible that seems to be a factor in their play.
“We’re not second class citizens or anything but we’re not the main spring sport here,” Scott said. “All these guys have made the tough choice to play baseball when lacrosse is the more popular sport. They want to be as successful as the lacrosse program and it drives them a little bit.”
Top Of The Order
1. Staples (1-0). It is way too early to provide a truly educated top five, but the Wreckers get the top spot off last year’s finish and the returning talent.
2. St. Joseph (2-0). The Cadets rank at the top of the league for most experience.
2. Darien (3-1). The Blue Wave have received strong pitching thus far. Were they under the radar during the preseason?
4. Westhill (1-1). The Vikings have all the pieces in place to defend their regular-season title.
5. Brien McMahon (3-0). The Senators get the nod for the final spot based on their hot start.