RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri had limited pitching options for today’s game against Staples, with first place in the FCIAC standings on the line.
Alex Price, his ace, was unavailable after his start on Friday.
A month ago Fabbri’s predicament would have appeared a liability. That was before he discovered that, as he stressed, the Tigers may not have quantity but they do possess quality.
That was further stamped after Matt DeLuca, in his first start since throwing a no-hitter last week against New Milford, limited the Wreckers to just two runs on five hits over six innings. Jake Artzt, the No. 2 starter, came on and worked out of a jam, leaving the tying run in scoring position to secure a 3-2 win.
“That was pretty exciting, beating the No. 1 team in the FCIAC,” DeLuca said after his second career win.”
DeLuca said his performance against New Milford had a positive effect on his mindset in what otherwise might have seemed a more intimidating situation against the defending Class LL champions.
“That was a big confidence booster,” DeLuca said. “I came in here very confident that I could get this win.”
The game again shook up the top of the FCIAC standings with the start of the playoffs less than two weeks away. Ridgefield, which has won six straight, is 10-2 in league play and jumped into first place. It is on the verge of clinching a berth a year after losing in the championship game. Staples and Darien are a half a game behind, though the Tigers now have tiebreakers over both.
More important for Ridgefield is one of the top four spots and a quarterfinal home game.
“The little things we did right today,” Fabbri said. “Artzt hasn’t been in a pressure situation like that and he came through with flying colors. I don’t know if I had my doubts about DeLuca. Is he going to duplicate that? He did a great job.”
Ridgefield (13-3 over all) was held to just four hits but made the most of them. Matt Restivo had an RBI single in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and Quinn McDonald hit a one-out single in the sixth and eventually scored the winning run on Joe Pastore’s sacrifice fly.
Staples knocked the Tigers out of the state tournament the last two years. Last season that came in the semifinal round.
“We’re very aware of Staples,” Fabbri said. “I think we were hyper aware of them. I think the team is at the point now they are getting up for everybody. I think the approach was great, our attention to detail was great.”
Staples (12-4 over all) finished with seven hits but stranded nine runners, wasting a good effort by Harry Azadian, who gave up just one earned run over 5 1/3 innings.
“We just couldn’t get the big hit today,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “We needed a close game like this. We’ve been playing the 9-1 games. We needed a playoff game like this. This was actually good for us.”
Not so good was the lack of execution that had carried the Wreckers to six wins in their previous seven games and into first place.
“In a single elimination game you can’t blow a bunt coverage,” McFarland said. “When they’re giving you an out you have to get it. You can’t have two errors. It was a good game. Harry did a great job. We could have won this game with better at bats with guys on base.
The Tigers’ starters have made that a more daunting task.
“That kind of tells me that we have trust in both of those two guys to do what they did,” Fabbri said. “DeLuca for the length of the game and Jake in that key spot. If we are going to do some damage in the playoffs we are going to have to win more than one game and not just Alex, and those guys have proven themselves.”