Pitching And Defense Rule As Darien And Staples Advance To FCIAC Title Game

Staples’ Chad Knight swings at a pitch in the first inning and then watches as the ball clears the fence for a home run. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

STAMFORD — How do you shut down a team averaging 12 runs a game in its wins?

For Darien’s Justin Jordan in tonight’s FCIAC semifinal against Fairfield Ludlowe, it was a matter of executing and winning the chess match.

“I was mixing it up a little bit, keeping them off balance,” Jordan said after throwing the Blue Wave’s second straight playoff one-hitter, leading them to a 2-0 win over the Falcons. “I started the game off with a changeup, not even a fastball. I knew they were going to come out swinging. That was the gameplan after what they did at Ridgefield. Throwing strikes, keeping it low and away.”

What the Falcons (11-11) did at Ridgefield was explode for an 18-3 win against the regular-season champion. But facing Jordan they were limited to Derek Tallman’s leadoff single in the sixth inning.

Harry Azadian pitched a complete-game four-hitter for Staples. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

“I was a little intimidated but I pitched against them last game and I just have to rely on my defense,” said Jordan, who struck out eight and walked three — in succession with two outs in the fourth. He induced an infield groundout to get out of the jam.

Jordan’s effort was the best of the night — barely. In the second semifinal, Staples advanced to the championship with a 3-0 win over Danbury on Harry Azadian’s complete-game four-hitter.

“That was a college-level baseball game,” Wreckers coach Jack McFarland said in a statement that could umbrella the entire evening. “Both pitchers were dealing, it came down to a couple clutch hits.”

Danbury’s Antonio Martire makes contact with a pitch. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Jordan’s gem followed a one-hitter by Henry Williams in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Trumbull — a game in which Darien was no-hit but scored on a pair of errors.

“He was throwing first-pitch strikes,” Scott said. “He was playing to their aggressiveness. He was throwing a lot of first-pitch changeups and they were offering at them. And he shut down a very good hitting team. Justin just stayed in the zone, kept them guessing and just got the job done. It’s the name of tournament baseball, pitching and defense. That’s what wins you championships. We have one big one left.”

Arthur Xanthos accounted for the Blue Wave’s scoring with two-out RBI singles in the third and fifth innings.

Staples’ Harris Azadian makes contact and reaches on an error. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

“Arthur Xanthos, I have to give him a shout,” Jordan said of his catcher. “My man behind the plate and he got those two RBIs. Relieves a little bit of the pressure and it just felt great out there.”

Mike Randozzo, in his first start since injuring his back in a 16-12 win over New Canaan on May 1, allowed just one run on four hits over four innings.

It was a performance worthy of a win. That has been the case for both of the Blue Wave’s opponents as they now get the chance to play for their second league title in three years.

“We do our job, throw strikes and rely on our defense,” Jordan said. “You can’t ask for anything else.”

Staples’ Max Popken throws out a Danbury batter. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Azadian, making his first start on a day other than Monday this spring, retired the first 11 Danbury batters and allowed just one runner to reach second. The Hatters (12-10) were the third seeds.

“I couldn’t do this without our lineup,” Azadian said. “The guys on the team just fought. That’s why we won the game today. They got big hits and made big plays in the field.”

Chad Knight got the second-seeded Wreckers (17-4) going with a towering opposite-field home run in the first inning.

“In a game like this you want to play with a lead, especially with two good pitchers going,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “You knew it was going to be a low-scoring game.”

From there, it was a battle between Azadian and the Hatters’ Justin Solimine, whose brother Ryan was the winning pitcher in a quarterfinal win over St. Joseph. Solimine allowed just three hits, but two went for extra bases that accounted for all of the scoring.

Danbury’s Justin Solimine allowed just three hits. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Chris Drbal, who earlier in the day sustained a cut on his left hand that required 10 stitches and was almost a late scratch, hit a two-run double in the fifth inning beyond the reach of Danbury centerfielder Kenny Martinez, who was injured on the play and had to leave the game.

An inning earlier, Martinez made a spectacular diving catch to rob Azadian of an extra-base hit.

The Wreckers’ Zach Zobel matched that an inning later in similar fashion to deny Ryan Solimine on a ball in the gap in right-center.

“Teams that are playing for championships do that and obviously these are two very good teams,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “It was a dogfight.”

Staples’ Chad Knight congratulates Adam Petro after scoring a run. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

 

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