If you formed a knockout pool three weeks ago to guess which FCIAC baseball team would go the longest before its first loss, New Canaan would have had few takers.
Several years of graduating strong talent caught up with the Rams last spring. They finished 7-13, getting shut out by New Fairfield on the final day of the regular season to miss the state tournament.
Factor in that the status of the Rams’ best player remained uncertain during the preseason, and it was not surprising the Rams went unmentioned in the baseball previews.
“You don’t expect much hype for us,” New Canaan coach Mitch Hoffman said. “We didn’t deserve it after last year.”
For the last two weeks, New Canaan has had its publicity rally caps on. Monday’s 11-1 win over Bridgeport Central put the Rams at 6-0 and, with Danbury’s win over Ridgefield, made them the last remaining unbeaten team in the conference. When yesterday’s first regular season state poll was released, New Canaan was prominent in the No. 4 position.
“We’re just an OK bunch of baseball players,” Hoffman said. “I think everyone’s trying to do their own job. Our kids are just playing every inning, pitch by pitch, that’s really what it boils down to right now, and fortunately we’ve had a couple of bounces our way. Hopefully that continues.”
With a pitching staff by committee — Hoffman said he has two players who are solely pitchers — the team’s most distinguishing feature so far has been the offense. The Rams have put up at least seven runs each game. It has been a collaborative effort, and the players thus far have bought into their roles.
“I don’t have any egos,” Hoffman said. “When I have to sub a guy they know it’s for the betterment of the team and they have been great. We are going to have to get contributions from everybody.”
Mike Pelli has made an impact both on the mound and at the plate. He drove in four runs and got the win in a 9-2 victory last week over Wilton. Matt Burger and Griffin Arnone, two of the Rams’ other standouts, also had big games.
“We’ve had a bunch of two-out hits, sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies,” Hoffman said. “We’ve done that and it’s worked out well.”
The Rams have done this without the services of Robbie Jones, their outstanding pitcher, who is recovering from a non-baseball-related injury. Jones’ status is uncertain, but the hope is that he will return to provide an impact.
Asked if he has used Jones’ absence as a rallying point, Hoffman said, “I haven’t. They might have. They are a tight group of kids. Keep rolling and hopefully we get one of the best players in the state back at some time. Then hopefully we get a little bit better.”
Until then, Hoffman said, he will work on the areas that can be controlled, like not making too much out of a great first 30 percent of the season.
“It is confidence boosting, but we don’t want overconfidence boosting,” Hoffman said. “Baseball I would say is the tightest of any sport in the FCIAC. If you get overconfident right now it doesn’t mean anything.”
Top Of The Order
1. New Canaan (6-0, 4-0). When you are the last unbeaten team in the dog-eat-dog world of FCIAC baseball, you get the No. 1 spot in Top Of The Order.
2. Ridgefield (6-1, 3-1). A loss Monday to Danbury does little to diminish the Tigers’ hot start.
3. Westhill (4-2, 2-1). The Vikings had allowed five runs in their first five games before giving up six yesterday in a non-league loss to Weston.
4. Norwalk (5-3, 3-1). The Bears had a tough loss Monday to Westhill, but have been solid in all areas.
5. Fairfield Ludlowe (5-2, 2-2). From the fast-turning tides department: The Falcons opened 5-0 but have lost two straight and allowed 25 runs in their last three games.