STAMFORD — Kenny Wright, the shortstop and emotional leader of Stamford High School’s baseball team, was not without material to lead with following Thursday’s 9-1 home win over Trinity Catholic.
Wright could have discussed his 2-hit, 3-RBI day. Or Billy DeVito allowing just 1 run and 2 hits over five innings, combining with Dan Robushi on a 3-hitter.
And Wright did.
Just not at first. His recurrent storyline was a little surprising.
“It was a little bit of payback for the regular season from basketball, when we got blown out badly,” Wright said.
Wright is the most prominent of five members on the baseball team who turned their mental DVRs back nearly two months, when they were soundly beaten by the Crusaders on the basketball court, 66-52.
Stamford used that loss as a springboard to winning eight of its next 10 games to reach the semifinal round of the FCIAC Tournament.
Thursday was just the season opener for the Black Knights, so it remains to be seen what will ensue, and whether defeating Trinity Catholic was an emphatic win over a city rival or turns into something of greater significance.
But for Wright, the Crusaders provided some extra motivation.
I’m playing it just like it’s a basketball game,” Wright said. “We got blown out. We took them lightly. Before this game we were all on the same page. The basketball players, we talked about it. We all remember what happened. That was not going to happen again.”
If the lingering memories of a loss to an opponent in another sport is going to inspire victories, Stamford coach Fred Kelley will gladly scan old sports pages to find something to avenge. Kelley admitted that he made passing mention of the basketball game, as did Danny Melzer, the Black Knights’ basketball coach and an assistant with the junior varsity baseball team.
“I kind of used it as an impetus,” Kelley said. “Remember you guys owe them. You didn’t play your best game of the year.”
Trinity was coming off a season-opening win behind a great pitching performance by Randy Polonia, but fell behind after three innings, 3-0, despite allowing just one hit, as the Black Knights took advantage of 6 walks by Trinity starter Anthony Hoegemann.
“It started out a little weird,” Wright said. “It was not one of his best outings. He’s one of my friends. If we see him again, I know he’s going to be on point.”
Then the Stamford bats came to life, putting together nine hits over the next three innings. Wright spurred a five-run fifth inning with a two-run double, following a double by James Gronberg, who just happened to be the Black Knights’ point guard.
Gronberg and Mike White each finished with two hits, while DeVito was in complete control.
“He threw amazing,” Wright said. “He threw a gem.”
The Stamford basketball team opened the season wearing the “sleeper” label, and proved to be much more than that.
Wright feels the baseball team can have the same kind of success.
“If we play like we played today, we can surprise a bunch of teams,” Wright said. “Just like basketball. They thought we couldn’t do much. We have a lot of skill. We have to practice hard every day. It starts in practice. What you do when you practice shows in a game.”
Such was the case for the Black Knights on opening day.
“I thought in all facets of the game we were great today,” Kelley said. “The pitching was great, the hitting got great late in the game and our fielding was great. I’m happy.”
Wright had a great season on the basketball court, but it is only his second favorite sport.
“It’s all smiles,” Wright said. “When I’m on the field it’s just fun.”
Winning is more fun, and Wright reminded that Thursday was a non-league game, and one more meeting with the Crusaders lies ahead.
“We just have to do it again,” Wright said. “If we go 2-0 against them it will be the full thing.”