WESTPORT — It was instinct, Staples coach Jack McFarland said, that prompted him to jump Zack Zobel up two spots from his customary fifth position in the batting order for today’s game against Danbury.
Zobel rewarded his coach’s prescience with a 3-for-3, five-RBI performance to lead the Wreckers to a 6-4 home win.
“We moved him into the three hole today because we’ve liked what we’ve seen in practice and it paid off,” McFarland said. “He’s really attacking the baseball.”
Staples needed all of Zobel’s production because the Hatters made strong contact against its two best pitchers, and had the tying runs in scoring position in the seventh with one out against Chad Knight, working in relief. Knight got out of the jam by inducing Connor Corcoran to hit into a double play, started by shortstop Andrew Moy on a slow roller.
“Danbury is tough,” McFarland said. “Danbury, whenever you play them you have to get the 21st out. They’ll come back, they’ll play 11 innings. Their kids are tough kids. They get a lot of hits. We always have battles with them.”
The Hatters (2-3) had nine hits against Harry Azadian, who went the first 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs, and Knight. Despite good at bats, Danbury was held scoreless the first four innings and was unable to make up an early 4-0 deficit.
“We’re proving that we cannot overcome mistakes yet,” Danbury coach Shaun Ratchford said. “Hopefully we will be able to overcome mistakes because we made some mistakes in the field that helped them. I loved what they did against two really good pitchers. We hit the ball hard early, we hit the ball late, we just didn’t get the ball to fall.”
Azadian is now 4-0 against the Hatters the past two seasons, including postseason games.
Zobel, who is now 6-for-7 in the two games he has batted third, staked the Wreckers (4-1) to a quick lead with a solo homer in the first.
“I like the spot,” Zobel said. “I think the past few games I’ve been getting better and better. Having a better feel at the plate. Getting into midseason form.”
The next time Zobel came up, in the third, the bases were loaded after two walks and an error. Zobel drove a ball to the fence in center to bring in all three runners and make the score 4-0.
“I was just trying to hit something hard honestly,” Zobel said.
It was the scenario McFarland envisioned when making the lineup card.
“I just wanted him to get up,” McFarland said. “I felt the way he’s swinging, it’s a sunny day with the wind blowing out a little bit, he could do some damage and that’s what happened. Knowing that Chad maybe is going to be walked a couple times, a lot of RBI opportunities and he came through.”
Staples was economical with just five hits; Jake Damico had the other two and followed Zobel’s RBI single in the fifth with one of his own.
Danbury had scored three times in the top of the inning on an RBI single by Justin Solimine and two-run base hit from Spencer Barnett. Both players finished with two hits. Barnett’s second made it a two-run game in the seventh and brought Corcoran to the plate.
Ratchford, one of the sport’s more pragmatic coaches, was not overly concerned after his team’s second close loss in three days.
“High school baseball, you’re as good as tomorrow’s pitcher, just like college, just like the pros,” Ratchford said. “We have to practice on some things we didn’t do well today but otherwise I’m happy. I told them we will be better. The thing I don’t know is it going to be game 10, is it going to be game 15, is it going to be game 18? We have to try to mature a little quicker than normal. If you want to have the goals it’s got to be turned around relatively quick.”
McFarland said he is pleased by what he has seen from his team a quarter of the way through the season.
“We have some things to iron out but I like the lineup, I like the pitching,” McFarland said.