Murph's Turf: Best-ofs for Wilton High spring sports
Following are The Bulletin’s best-of awards for the recently completed Wilton High spring sports season:
Game: The FCIAC baseball championship game took place at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, spacious home of the Bridgeport Bluefish. The bigger stage was fitting. In a contest full of post-season tension, Wilton and Staples battled through seven scoreless innings before the Warriors broke through in the top of the eighth. Jackson Ward’s two-out single, on a 3-2 count, scored James Meany to give Wilton a 1-0 lead. That was plenty for lefthander J.T. Morin, who struck out Staples in order in the bottom of the inning to preserve the Warriors’ first conference title since 1995.
Play: Actually, there were two of them — and they came one after the other. With Wilton and Staples tied 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning of the FCIAC championship game, sophomore second baseman Collin Kahal made a diving catch to take away a base hit from Staples. Senior centerfielder Scott Shouvlin then extended Staples’ frustration with a diving catch to end the inning.
Oddity: In one day, the Wilton High girls tennis team was both reinstated and eliminated from the Class L state tournament. After losing to Amity, 4-3, in a second-round match, the Warriors appeared to have played their final match of the season. Not so fast. Because Amity had violated a CIAC rule by having its two top doubles players compete in singles matches, Wilton was awarded a 7-0 forfeit victory the following morning. Later that day, the Warriors nearly upset unbeaten top-seed Glastonbury in the quarterfinals, losing 4-3 despite playing without top singles player Maddi Stow.
Newcomer: The Wilton baseball team’s 18-player roster included 14 sophomores, one junior, two sophomores, and one freshman. The lone ninth grader, Dillon Lifrieri, had a significant role. After pinch hitting in the Warriors’ first three games, Lifrieri became the team’s starting shortstop and hit over .300 during the regular season, helping Wilton go 15-5 and then win the conference championship.
Performance (female athlete): By halftime of the Class L state semifinals, the Simsbury girls lacrosse team had seen enough of Sara Dickinson. Dickinson, a senior attackman for Wilton, scored seven goals — on eight shots — in the first half, setting the tone for the Warriors’ 16-4 rout.
Performance (male athlete): Morin’s complete-game, two-hitter in the Wilton baseball team’s 1-0 triumph over Staples in the FCIAC finals will go down as one of the best efforts in conference history. Even more so because of what preceded it: Morin’s complete-game, 137-pitch gem in a 6-1 quarterfinal win over Norwalk three days earlier. Morin allowed one unearned run and struck out 14 batters in that game, then allowed no runs, or walks, and struck out 12 batters in the eight-inning title win over Staples, throwing 120-plus pitches.
Female athlete: Makenna Pearsall’s value to the Wilton girls lacrosse team was illustrated by her relatively inauspicious start to the 2015 season. A starting guard on the Wilton girls basketball team that won the program’s first state championship in March, Pearsall took a while to hit her stride on the lacrosse field. Once she did, however, the Warriors became more dangerous, reaching the Class L state finals before losing, 14-10, to a Darien team that had handled Wilton far more easily in two earlier games. Whether she was scoring key goals, winning draw controls, forcing turnovers or claiming groundballs, Pearsall displayed the skill that resulted in All-American honors for the second straight season.
Male athlete: Until this spring’s FCIAC championships, Spencer Brown had never run the 400-meter race in a marquee meet. Now, he holds the school record in the event. Brown, a senior, broke a 53-year-old program record in the 400 with a time of 49.21 seconds and won the event at the conference championships. After that, he returned to his more customary events, winning the 800 and 1,600 in meet-record times at the Class L meet, and then finishing first in the 800 and second in the 1,600 at the State Open. Brown, who will run at Georgetown University, leaves Wilton as the program’s record holder in the 400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200.
Coach: In his 37th season, Tim Eagen guided the Wilton baseball team to its third FCIAC title in program history and its first in 20 years. Eagen kept his senior-dominated squad focused, especially after it lost four of six games following a 10-1 start. The Warriors regrouped and won their final three regular-season games, then added three more triumphs en route to the conference championship. Eagen did some tinkering, with both the rotation and the lineup, that ultimately paid dividends for the Warriors.
Team: A no-brainer, really. By winning just the third FCIAC title in school history, this spring’s Wilton baseball team vaulted itself into rarefied air. Although they lost relatively early in the state tournament — a 6-5 setback to Norwalk in the Class LL second round — the Warriors established themselves as a team worthy of sticking in both the record books and the memory.