Wilton in battle for FCIAC playoff berth
After winning four straight games to get back in the hunt for a spot in the conference playoffs, the Wilton High baseball team stubbed its toe with a pair of road losses.
The Warriors fell to Brien McMahon, 6-3, on Friday in Norwalk and then lost to Trumbull, 11-0, on Saturday in a game that was stopped after five innings due to the run rule.
With two regular-season contests remaining, Wilton (10-8 overall, 7-7 FCIAC) is tied with four other teams for the eighth and final berth in the FCIAC playoffs, which begin Friday. The Warriors are scheduled to host Stamford tomorrow at 6:30 (in a game postponed today) and Fairfield Ludlowe on Wednesday at 4:15.
In last Friday's game against McMahon, Wilton had an optimistic opening, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Norwalk's Frank Greco bounced his opening pitch off Drew Phillips’ helmet, and Phillips then stole second and moved to third on an infield throwing error before scoring on Kyle Phillips' fielder’s choice. With two outs, Chris Tienken swatted an RBI single to center, giving the Warriors a quick 2-0 edge.
Wilton starter Ethan Leinberger defended the lead handily through three innings, allowing only a base hit to Cooper Grillo, who was thrown out by catcher Cole Judelson while trying to steal second. In the fourth, Leinberger got the first strike and then it all went south, fast. A base hit to center by Shane Popkins, an infield hit by Jack Fitzpatrick, and then a line drive, three-run homer by James Stafanowicz vaulted the Senators to 3-2 lead.
McMahon added a run in the fifth when Jose Vazquez doubled off the left-centerfield fence and Popkins followed with an RBI single.
Having seen its two-run lead morph into a two-run deficit, Wilton struck back in the fifth. Tienken hammered a triple to deep left, scrambling into third base after his slide left him short of the bag, and Sam Strazza came through with a two-out, RBI single, trimming McMahon's lead to 4-3.
After yielding a walk and hitting a batter in the bottom of the fifth, Wilton reliever Eric LeBek gave way to John McMahon, who appeared to restore order as he got an outfield fly and a strikeout. The inning then appeared to be over when Vasquez grounded a ball wide of first that Wilton first baseman John Walsh fielded cleanly.
But Walsh's throw to the late-arriving pitcher covering first base could not catch the speedy batter, and with both runners moving on contact one run scored immediately and the other did as well, foiling multiple throws attempting to catch him. Vasquez reached third on the play, leaving the Warriors to ponder angrily how two runs could score on a ball not even hit out of the infield.
“We practice that play all the time,” Wilton head coach Tim Eagen said. “It is a play we have to make if we’re going to win at this level. These are big games and we need to step up to the level of FCIAC playoff competition.”
Down to its final at-bat, Wilton got a leadoff single from Luca Wentzel in the top of the seventh inning. But McMahon reliever Max Pomponi retired the next three hitters to end the game.
Notes: Wilton was held to two hits in its 11-0 loss to Trumbull on Saturday.
Trumbull's Andrew Harvey allowed only singles to Wentzel and Judelson in shutting out the Warriors.
McMahon started for Wilton and pitched into the fourth inning before giving way to Nick Sheehan.
Tuesday's game with Stamford is Senior Night for the Warriors, as well as Challenger League Recognition Night.