Extra-Base Hits: A Number Of Early-Season Baseball And Softball Surprises

Wilton’s Billy Black pitched a complete-game shutout yesterday against Westhill.

It is way too early after eight days to make any grand pronouncements about the FCIAC baseball and softball seasons, more so this spring, when flooded fields kept most teams indoors for the preseason.

The Staples baseball team was on its field for just the second time during Saturday’s loss to Newtown. Wilton was in the same position for yesterday’s great pitchers’ duel against Westhill, with the Warriors and Billy Black coming away with a 1-0 win. Many teams are backed up this week with makeup games, which will tax pitching staffs in baseball, especially with the new pitch-count rule. Danbury is currently in the middle of playing on six straight days. After Thursday, Ridgefield will have played six times in seven days. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The Tigers are prominent in what I would say is the biggest early-season story: the emergence of teams that got little preseason publicity. Ridgefield was hit hard by graduation losses, and was at least considered a sleeper with an ace like Collin Lowe and top hitter in John Thrasher. The Tigers are 3-0 and have scored 27 runs in one game and given up just eight. We will see how they look at the end of the week after an arduous schedule.

The biggest surprises come out of Fairfield, where Ludlowe, with little acclaim, is off to a 4-0 mark after sweeping a doubleheader yesterday with Stamford. The Falcons’ pitchers have given up just eight runs.

Bucking this trend, defending Class LL runner-up Fairfield Warde, with many of last year’s key contributors graduated, are a surprising 0-5.

Another unexpected start has come from New Canaan, which was not on anyone’s radar and is contending with an injury to Robby Jones that could keep him out for a good part if not all of the season. The Rams are 3-0.

Of the baseball teams mentioned most, only Trumbull is below .500, and at 1-2 hardly in panic mode. The Eagles travel tomorrow to Darien, a rematch of last year’s league championship.

Surprises are fewer in softball, where a good pitcher has so much impact. Still, Norwalk is off to its best start in years. The Bears are 4-0 and have scored 53 runs.

Norwalk has St. Joseph and Westhill coming up in the next six days, so we will have a better read, as we will on teams in both sports, by then.

No Concern At Staples

It would not have been a surprise if some negative memories were roused on Saturday in Westport, after Staples’ 3-0 opening loss to Newtown. The Wreckers were hit hard by injuries a year ago and got off to a 4-7 start from which they never recovered, in large part because of non-league losses.

But Staples coach Jack McFarland said it was way too premature to make anything out of the game.

“It was the second time on this field,” McFarland said. “I’m not concerned about that, I’m just happy to get one game in on the field. It has been hard being indoors when you want to get out and do outside things.”

McFarland said any thoughts to last spring at this point have to do with motivation.

“Our goals every year is to make the FCIACs and make the states, and that’s it,” he said. “We did it for nine straight years and we didn’t make the FCIACs last year. We’re laser focused.”

Top Of The Order

1. Ridgefield (3-0). After just a few games, and given the circumstances, how do you measure and rank? It is all a crap shoot, but for now we will give the Tigers the top spot.

2. Wilton (1-0). Billy Black’s opening-game shutout against Westhill, another contender, gives the Warriors an early nod.

3. Staples (1-1). We aren’t selling stock in the Wreckers off of one shutout loss.

4. Fairfield Ludlowe (4-0). Too early to tell if the Falcons are in the hunt for the long haul, but they have the league’s best record.

5. St. Joseph (3-1). The Cadets have been putting up runs so far.