Baseball

Baseball: Morin’s 12-Strikeout, 2-Hitter Lifts Wilton To First FCIAC Title In 20 Years

Wilton celebrates its first baseball championship in 20 years after Friday's 1-0, 8-inning win over Staples. (Photo: Jack McFarland)

Wilton celebrates its first baseball championship in 20 years after Friday’s 1-0, 8-inning win over Staples. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

BRIDGEPORT — Though he has one of the state’s deepest starting rotations, there was no question who Wilton coach Tim Eagen was sending out to the mound for Friday night’s FCIAC championship game with Staples.

“JT is getting the ball, it is his game,” Eagen said an hour before the opening pitch. “He wants the ball.”

Then, in a performance that will permanently etch his name in league lore, Morin went out and threw a complete-game 2-hitter, striking out 12 in a classic 1-0, 8-inning win over the Wreckers at Harbor Yard.

It is the Warriors’ first title in 20 years and was quite literally delivered by a pitcher who surpassed the 120-pitch count for the second time on two days’ rest.

“It was incredible to play here with all the fans behind us and the adrenaline, it was awesome,” Morin said. “I did a ton of rehab every day and today I went out in the bullpen and I felt it. I had my best stuff and threw strikes.”

JT Morin finished with 12 strikeouts and allowed just two hits for his second win in three days. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

JT Morin finished with 12 strikeouts and allowed just two hits for his second win in three days. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Morin was matched for seven innings by Staples’ Marco Latella, who was making his first start and just third pitching appearance of the season after contracting mononucleosis.

Latella allowed just five hits until the eighth, when leadoff hitter James Meaney hit a two-out bloop single to center. Meaney stole second and then Jackson Ward singled to shallow left.

It was a ball that under normal circumstances the runner would be held, but needing to make something happen Meaney was sent home and scored when the throw was off line.

Morin went out in the bottom of the inning and struck out the side for his seventh win.

“I told him just go out and give me as much as you can for as long as you can,” Eagen said. “He was getting stronger as the game went on. He was a lot more conservative tonight with pitches because we were watching the pitching count because we extended him on Tuesday. He just continued to battle, and I knew it was going to be one big hit.”

Marco Latella was spectacular in defeat for Staples, allowing just seven hits. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Marco Latella was spectacular in defeat for Staples, allowing just seven hits. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

It took a while for that hit to come. Wilton (18-5), the No. 5 seed, got the leadoff batter on in each of the previous two innings but failed to advance them.

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“We bunt more than any team in America does and it just didn’t work for whatever reason tonight but we got the clutch hit when we had to,” Eagen said. “The key was getting the kid to second base on the steal.”

Morin retired the last 12 batters he faced — eight by strikeout. He only gave up a two-out single to Michael Cusa in the third and a leadoff base hit to Zach Azadian in the fifth.

“I felt so good,” Morin said. “I felt every pitch was on tonight and every one I threw was going to be a strike.”

The game featured outstanding defense, the best play being a diving catch in left by Azadian to rob Scott Shouvlin of an extra-base hit.

Second-seeded Staples (18-5) reached the final with an 8-2 win in a rain-delayed semifinal against Trinity Catholic prior to the championship.

“Marco’s a bulldog,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “He was great but hats off to JT Morin. It was a great baseball game.”

Staples second baseman Michael Cusa attempts to make a diving catch. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Staples second baseman Michael Cusa attempts to make a diving catch. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Staples 8, Trinity Catholic 2

The Wreckers scored five runs on just two hits in the second inning of Friday’s earlier semifinal and rolled to an easy win over sixth-seeded Trinity Catholic.

Ross Poulley had an RBI double off the wall and Nate Panzer later added a run-scoring single. Staples took advantage of an error, two walks and a wild pitch.

Trinity (15-7) threatened in the first inning when Randy Polonia singled and Matt Fraioli walked, but was unable to get a run across.

“I thought we battled hard,” said Trinity coach Tracy Nichols. “There was a key error in the second inning that hurt us. We needed to score in that first inning. I think that would have boosted our confidence. I think if I take a positive out of this it’s that Cam (Greig) our pitcher threw better than the score showed and I think he becomes our No. 2 going into the state tournament.”

The Crusaders got their first run in the fourth when Tommy Costigan hustled a base hit into a double and eventually scored on a groundout. Dan Bernard, who went 3 for 3, singled and scored in the seventh.

Sean Clarke and Ian Burns hit back to back doubles, with Burns then scoring on a passed ball, for Staples in the sixth. Ben Casparius had a triple and single, while Poulley and Noah Yokoi also had two hits.