Ridgefield Rides DeLuca To Hand Ludlowe First Loss

Ridgefield’s Matt DeLuca delivers a pitch. (Mark Conrad)

RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield baseball coach Paul Fabbri met on Sunday with Matt DeLuca, his star pitcher, to plan which game he would start this week.

DeLuca was coming off throwing 6 2/3 innings in a shutout win over Trumbull two days earlier, and Fabbri knew this was a week he could buy his ace extra rest.

DeLuca looked at the options and gave his coach a one word reply: Ludlowe.

“He saw they were undefeated and that’s all he said,” Fabbri recalled.

The Falcons’ status as the FCIAC’s last unbeaten team changed after DeLuca (3-0) threw a complete-game six-hitter, striking out nine and not walking a batter for a 2-1 win.

Ridgefield pitcher Matt DeLuca tags out Ludlowe’s Blake Benway trying to score on a passed ball. (Mark Conrad)

“My team getting me runs early. That really gave confidence to me,” DeLuca said. “That’s a great team. I don’t know I’m speechless.”

Cole Blackwell finished with two hits and drove in a run while Colin LaCoille had two hits and scored once for the Tigers.

DeLuca needed to be sharp — and have catcher Sean Livingstone throw out a runner at the plate after a pitch got by him — because Falcons starter Matt Micinilio and reliever Connor O’Neill nearly matched him.

“They swing the bats,” Fabbri said of the Falcons. “We have supreme confidence in him. I know there are great pitchers out there but he’s so tough and just from last year — and what he did last year was amazing — and now it’s can you top this every time out there.”

Ludlowe’s Jack Vogel gets back to third as Ridgefield’s Thomas Gioffre avoids him. (Mark Conrad)

Ridgefield (7-2, 3-2 FCIAC) rebounded from a loss to Danbury a day earlier in much the same manner that got it to the state championship game a year ago: strong pitching and timely hitting.

“We just went out there, took some good swings, played de behind DeLuca,” said LaCoille, the Tigers’ shortstop. “We had a rough game against Danbury defensively and offensively. We wanted to go out there and make the best of the situation. Any time you’ve got DeLuca on the mound it’s a good day.”

Ridgefield got DeLuca a run in the second inning. Matt Restivo hit a leadoff double to right, LaCoille singled to put runners on the corners and Sean Livingstone hit a sacrifice fly.

“LaCoille is doing a great job for us and Cole Blackwell did a nice job putting balls in play,” Fabbri said. “We’re getting it from all different people but good pitching beats good hitting and we have to figure it out.”

Ridgefield shortstop Colin LaCoille fields a ground ball. (Mark Conrad)

Ridgefield got what proved to be the winning run in the fourth. LaCoille hit a leadoff single to center, moved to second on a bunt and scored on Blackwell’s double to left.

Micinilio allowed five hits over four innings and stranded four runners in scoring position.

Ludlowe (8-1, 4-1) got to DeLuca in the fifth. Tom Stasko singled and one out later Blake Benway and Jack Vogel had back to back hits to drive in a run. With Derek Tallman batting, a pitch got by Livingstone and went toward the backstop. Livingstone pounced on it and, with Benway heading home, made the throw to DeLuca just in time to get the out. DeLuca then fanned Tallman.

“We faced a good pitcher, our pitchers pitched well,” Ludlowe coach Mike Francese said. “A couple of swings here or there and it could have gone a different way. We hit some hard shots they made good plays on. The left side of the infield did a really good job of saving them.”

Ridgefield’s Nick Cullinan steals second base as Ludlowe’s Brian Howell awaits the throw. (Mark Conrad)

DeLuca retired the final six batters. He thought he had a called third strike against Benway to end the game. But the pitch was called a ball and DeLuca temporarily fumed.

“I had a lot of adrenaline flowing,” DeLuca said. “I had to calm down, Sean came out for a second and gave me some time to breathe and then I was able to get him out at the end.”

DeLuca’s strikeout ended another flawless performance.

Ludlowe’s Brian Howell catches a pop up. (Mark Conrad)

Asked if there was a difference in the field when DeLuca is pitching, LaCoille said, “You know there are going to be a lot of Ks but you still have to stay on your toes because every now and then you’re going to get one and have to back him up so he keeps it going.”

Vince Camera had a double for Ludlowe. Few teams are going to shut down the Falcons, and if they continue to get strong pitching they will remain a threat for postseason titles.

“I’ve got confidence in my guys,” Francese said. “No matter where we are in a game, I know they’re going to work the count and come back and get to a pitcher and they almost did. We fought. There were a couple of innings where we had runners in scoring position and we couldn’t get the big hit.”

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