Form Holds As Staples And Ludlowe Advance To FCIAC Championship

The Staples players congratulates pitcher Russell Krauss after their win over St. Joseph. (Mark Conrad)

STAMFORD — The FCIAC baseball semifinals were a contrast in styles.

While the first game had good defense and little offense, the second had sloppy play and much more offense.

In the first game, Staples, which finds different ways to beat opponents, managed just four hits against St. Joseph but capitalized on the opportunities afforded it and received solid pitching from Alex Deutsch and Russell Krauss en route to a 4-2 victory tonight at Cubeta Stadium.

It’s the second straight final for top-seeded Staples (19-3), which will oppose No. 2 Fairfield Ludlowe, which beat Darien, 5-3, tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Cubeta.

“With the wind blowing out and with two of the best lineups in the league, I thought it would be a 9-8, 9-7 crooked game,” said Staples coach Jack McFarland, whose squad was runner-up last season. “The pitching and defense held up.”

Staples’ Andrew Moy holds up his glove with the ball after tagging out St. Joseph’s Aaron Kirby at third. (Mark Conrad)

Whereas the first semifinal game didn’t have much offense, the second more than made up for it as No. 2 seed Ludlowe (18-4) downed defending champion Darien to advance to the championship for the first time since 2010.

“That’s an FCIAC game, that’s going to happen,” Ludlowe coach Mike Francese said. “You’re going to have ups and downs throughout the game and it was nice to set the tone obviously in the first inning, getting runs on the board, but you can’t get too comfortable, especially against a team like Darien.”

After Darien took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first — aided by two Ludlowe errors — on a sacrifice fly by Devyn Kipphut, the Falcons answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning to grab a 4-1 lead. Jamie Flink hit a three-run home run to right, his second of the season, and Vince Camera added an RBI single to left.

Staples’ James Damico gets back to second ahead of the throw to St. Joseph’s Carter Courbron. (Mark Conrad)

Ludlowe’s outburst was helped out by two Darien errors. Ludlowe and Darien (13-9) combined to commit eight errors.

“It wasn’t our prettiest game but I’m proud of the way the guys fought,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “All you can ask is for a chance to tie or win the game in the end and that’s what we had.”

Each team traded runs in the third. Duke-bound standout Henry Williams had an RBI double and Camera slugged a solo homer to left, his fourth of the season, to make the score 5-2.

St. Joseph’s Carter Courbron catches a line drive. (Mark Conrad)

Ben Olson had a sac fly in the fourth to cut Ludlowe’s lead to 5-3 and the Blue Wave brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the seventh with two outs before Connor O’Neill struck out the lone batter he faced to record the save.

James Delmiche (5-0) got the win, going four innings and giving up one run on four hits with three strikeouts. Matt Micinilio came on in relief in the fifth and pitched into the seventh before being relieved by O’Neill.

“Our pitching staff did a great job,” Francese said.

Camera, Flink and Chris Benton each had two hits for the Falcons. For Darien, Mac McLean pitched well in relief.

St. Joseph’s Michael Chaves tags out Staples’ Chad Knight after Knight was caught in a rundown between third and home. (Mark Conrad)

Deutsch (4-0), a crafty lefty, went 5-plus innings while allowing two runs on four hits, with three walks and nine strikeouts, for Staples.

“I had a shaky first inning and not a great second inning but the defense held up, the hitters came through when we needed it and we got the win,” said Deutsch, who felt that getting his slider over for a strike, which opened things up for his fastball, was the key to his success.

The Wreckers staked Deutsch to a 3-0 lead in the first inning as they took advantage of St. Joseph starter Al Paolozzi’s wildness.

Chad Knight started things off when he was hit by a pitch and stole second. After a line out to second, Zach Zobel had Staples’ lone RBI hit, as he clubbed a 1-1 pitch to rightfield to score Knight.

Harry Azadian and Adam Petro worked back-to-back walks to load the bases and, following a strikeout, Kevin Rabacs was hit by a pitch to force in a run and Chris Veneruso walked to score Azadian and give the Wreckers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Staples’ Drew Rogers fields a groundball. (Mark Conrad)

“We gave up a couple cheap runs in the first inning and it’s always hard to come back from a deficit, especially in a situation like this,” St. Joseph coach Jim Chaves said. “Our guys did a decent job getting back into it the next inning but unfortunately we couldn’t get that big hit the next four innings.”

The fourth-seeded Cadets (14-8, 11-7), who along with the Wreckers managed four hits, answered with two runs in the second to cut Staples’ lead to 3-2.

Hadyn Gourley led off with a single to center. After a strikeout, Carter Courbron walked. Deutsch struck out the next batter and it looked like he may escape unscathed, but Jack Wallace blasted the first pitch he saw for a long double over leftfielder James Damico to score two runs.

Staples starter Alex Deutsch delivers a pitch. (Mark Conrad)

That would be the extent of the damage against Deutsch, who pitched shutout ball the remainder of his stint before being relieved by Krauss after a single by Charlie Pagliarini in the sixth.

“He was gritty,” McFarland said of his sophomore ace. “They have really good left-handed hitters, that’s why he pitched. He did his job.”

Michael Chaves pitched well in relief of Paolozzi (3-2) but he did give up a run in the fourth.

James Damico blooped in a single to left that the fielders may have lost in the sun, and Knight was hit by a pitch again. Drew Rogers had an infield hit that ate up the third baseman to load the bases. With Zobel at the plate, Chaves uncorked a wild pitch to score Damico.

Krauss struck out the first two batters and, after a walk, recorded another strikeout to end the inning. The reliever pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the save and vault Staples back into the FCIAC championship.

“High-pressure situations are what you live for, it’s why you train all-year-round,” Krauss said. “I was confident in the guys behind me. I just wanted to go out and throw strikes, they happened to be strikeouts, but you know what? We’re happy we’re in the championship again.”

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