The story of the first half of the FCIAC baseball season is right there in the standings: take away the top and bottom two schools in league play and you have 13 teams within two games of one another.
Which means the playoff race is going to be a game of musical chairs.
Perhaps no sport has been more affected by the departure of Bassick and Harding, because of the strategy involved in setting up pitching rotations and matchups. At this point, if you have an ace or two, which team exactly do you save them for?
As the calendar turns to May, there is not one clear-cut favorite — or even two or three — for the conference title, and I can’t remember greater uncertainty this late into a season in any sport. And that includes the recently concluded boys basketball race.
Coaches I have spoken to during the past two weeks agreed there is not a team-to-beat or even a definite must valuable player. This year has been a blur, and that is not necessarily a negative.
Darien, now 10-2, has thus far been the most consistent team for the second year in a row. Since the foundation is pitching and defense, I expect the Blue Wave to remain in the top half of the standings for the long haul.
Staples has been the biggest disappointment, due in part to the season-ending injuries to Nate Panzer and Mike Fanning that have forced the team to move around players and put underclassmen in bigger roles, and in part to a few players not playing up to expectations.
The Wreckers have too much talent and pitching and I expect them to put their recent 1-6 streak behind them and become a factor in the title hunt. The same goes for Fairfield Warde, another preseason favorite that is 4-0 outside the FCIAC and 4-4 in conference play.
Norwalk, 6-1 in the league and 1-3 outside of it, also has all the pieces for a big second half.
We are looking at what should be an intriguing and completely unpredictable finish, where the bottom four seeds could all be just barely over .500 and a number of spots determined on the final day of the season.
In other words, this regular season is like a two-month version of the FCIAC Tournament.
Most Valuable Player
Andrew Winsch, Darien. Ask 10 different coaches and you will likely get 10 different responses for which player has had the biggest influence so far. And that is because there hasn’t been one obvious standout performance, but a number of good ones. Pitching has definitely outshone the hitting to date, and we are going with Winsch as the most pivotal player so far. The Blue Wave have a league-high 10 wins and Winsch (4-1, 1.21 ERA) is responsible for 40 percent of them. That is value personified.
Most Underrated Player
Mike Lisinichia, Westhill. Like almost every team, the Vikings have been all over the spectrum, their bats on fire one day, silent the next. They have averaged nine runs in seven wins and just over two in their four losses. Lisinichia gets the nod here over a crowded field because he was a name nobody knew a month ago and has earned strong praise since. He is hitting .429, half of his 12 hits have been for extra bases and Lisinichia has driven in 12 runs. On the mound he is 3-0. The only negative is a penchant for issuing walks. The Vikings need a strong second half out of him.
Coaches Of The Year
Mike Scott, Darien; John Cross, Brien McMahon. Another tough choice, and a bit of a cop-out here by not picking just one person. But of the eight teams at least three games over .500, the Blue Wave and Senators are probably the most surprising. The Blue Wave were written off after heavy graduation losses and have the league’s best record, while the Senators were not mentioned in any category that had a positive connotation. They scored 58 runs during a five-game winning streak following a 3-2 start.
Predicted Order Of Finish
I’m not so certain I will be able to give you an educated predicted order of finish at the start of the final week of the regular season, that is how bunched these teams are. Just figuring the eight playoff teams at this point is a rather futile exercise.
But following in the tradition here, and keeping in mind I’m still strong on teams with pitching and haven’t jumped ship on many of the favorites from a month ago, here is the biggest bunch of dartboard throwing in Ruden Report history.
3. Fairfield Warde
8. St. Joseph