Little League baseball: Wilton 12s stay alive with 3-1 win over Darien

Making an early pitching change in Monday night’s District One tournament elimination game, Wilton Little League 12-U baseball head coach Scott Gioffre decided to hand the ball to Hayden Klyver to see what he could bring.

As it turned out, quite a lot.

Klyver was the story of the game, allowing no runs over the final four and one-third innings as Wilton advanced to the losers’ bracket final with a 3-1 win over Darien at Scalzi Park in Stamford.

Wilton will play Stamford North in the losers’ bracket final on Wednesday night at 7 at Scalzi Park. The winner advances to the championship round against Ridgefield, beginning Friday night (7) at Stamford Springdale Field. A second game, if needed, would be played on Saturday,

On Monday, Klyver relieved starter Nevin Belanger with two outs in the top of the second and stymied Darien the rest of the way, mixing his fastball and curve to keep Darien hitters off-balance. He struck out seven and allowed two hits and two walks.

“He was lights-out. He was unbelievable. His curveball was on, and he was hitting his spots,” said coach Gioffre. “Nevin was off today, and he was at 35 (pitches). So we said, you know what, if he doesn’t have his stuff we’re going to try someone else. We think we have a deep pitching roster, which was apparent today.”

Klyver also had a double and scored Wilton’s first run, and drove in what proved to be the winning run with an RBI single in the fourth inning.

Darien get a solid outing from starter Simeon Doll, who went four innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked three, and also did a great job keeping opposing hitters off-balance with off-speed pitches.

Darien took the quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first, as William Smosky walked, went to second on a passed ball, and came home on a throwing error. Belanger got out of the inning by striking out two batters with a runner on third.

Klyver relieved Belanger (who was already at 37 pitches) with two outs in the top of the second, with a runner on second, and promptly ended the inning with a strikeout.

Wilton tied things in the bottom half of the second when Klyver drove a double to the right-centerfield fence, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Connor Robertson’s RBI ground-out.

Darien got runners on second and third with no outs in the third, as Smosky walked, Doll singled and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Klyver bore down and fooled consecutive hitters on off-speed pitches for strikeouts, and then picked off the runner at second to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, Wilton loaded the bases on walks to Sam Gioffre, Ryan Preisano and Quinn Stengrim, before Klyver’s two-out single up the middle brought home Gioffre to put Wilton up 2-1.

With two outs in the top of the fourth, Darien’s Dylan Alini drove a ball to deep left field for a double, putting the tying run on second. But Klyver caught the next batter looking at a called third strike.

After Klyver retired in the side in order in the top of the fifth, Stengrim provided Wilton with an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning when he drilled a shot just over the fence in right-center for a solo home run.

Darien got a lead-off walk by Matt Spenner to open the sixth, but Klyver retired the next three batters to end the game — and keep Wilton’s district title hopes alive.

For Wilton, Klyver was 2-for-3 with a double, run scored and RBI, and Stengrim was 2-for-2 with a home run, walk, RBI and run scored.

Gioffre had a hit and walk and scored a run, and Robertson had an RBI. Zarius Eusebe had a double, and George DiRocco and Preisano each walked.

For Darien, Smosky and Spenner both had two walks, while Alini had a double and Doll singled.