Baseball

Black Pitches 3-Hitter As Wilton Defeats Ridgefield To Win FCIAC Title

Wilton catcher Jack DiNanno celebrates with pitcher Billy Black after winning the FCIAC title following a 2-1 victory against Ridgefield. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

BRIDGEPORT — Two years ago Billy Black sat at Harbor Yard, a member of the Wilton junior variety baseball team, and watched JT Morin throw an eight-inning 2-hitter to lead the Warriors to the FCIAC championship.

Black was hoping to get the same opportunity down the line, and when it came tonight he made the most of it. Almost as dominant as Morin, Black allowed just three hits as the Warriors won their second title in three years after a 2-1 win over Ridgefield.

Wilton second baseman Collin Kahal throws to first after forcing out Ridgefield’s Colin Motill. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

“It was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” Black recalled of Morin’s outing, which came on two days’ rest. “I was just trying to get the win.”

Black won a terrific pitchers’ duel with the Tigers’ Collin Lowe, who gave up six hits and was deserving of a better fate.

Wilton (19-4), the second seed, broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth when Jack DiNanno doubled, went to third on Henry Strmecki’s base hit and scored on Collin Kahal’s RBI groundout.

Kahal was voted the game’s most valuable player.

“We had a really, really good tournament all the way around,” Eagen said. “Two games where we hit the ball, and this game was going to be a one-run game no matter what. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids because they found a way to win against a real good pitcher and a real good team.”

Black had to work out of a jam in the seventh. Pete Columbia doubled with one out. A groundout put the winning run at third, but Black ended the game with his 10th strikeout.

“I was a little nervous, so I was just trying to throw it in the zone hoping the fielders would make the next play, but it ended up being a strikeout,” Black said.

This was Black’s final appearance for Wilton; he is getting elbow surgery on Tuesday and won’t pitch in the state tournament.

“This was going to be my last game so I wanted to make it special and bring home a win for these guys, and it felt really good,” Black said.

Ridgefield (17-6), the No. 4 seed, took a 1-0 lead in the second when Columbia walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Tigers put just two more runners in scoring position.

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Lowe was fantastic, with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Ridgefield’s Dan Ignatowich slides safely into second as Wilton’s Dillon Lifrieri doesn’t get the throw in time. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

“He was great today,” Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri said. “He pitched well enough to win, but when you’ve got two aces like that locked in you have to be perfect.”

Wilton tied the game in the bottom of the second when Jack Dooley doubled and also scored on a wild pitch.

“In most respects you got what you paid for, with maybe the two best pitchers in the league kind of dealing,” Fabbri said. “I thought the two doubles were the difference in the game. Sometimes you tip your hat to the other team but rather than them winning today we lost because if we make the plays we are celebrating a 1-0 victory rather than a 2-1 loss.”

Black had retired 13 hitters in a row before the seventh-inning double.

Ridgefield shortstop Matt Colin reaches for a groundball. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

“That kid is a competitor and he showed it tonight,” Eagen said. “He made the mistake early throwing the wild pitch that scored the run but he didn’t let it affect him and he got stronger as the game went on. Billy pitched his usual great game and we played for all intents and purposes really great defense behind him. We just did enough to win and that’s what happens when you have two ace pitchers on the mound, it’s going to be a little thing that wins it for us and for us it was that chop that got the run in.”

Black said the game closed a chapter in his baseball life before heading next year to play at Columbia.

“It feels great,” Black said. “Ever since we were 12 years old we were thinking about this and talking about it. We’ve had this core group since we were that young or maybe younger so it feels great to win it with these guys.”

Wilton’s Dillon Lifrieri slides safely into second as Ridgefield’s Colin Motill can’t reach the throw. (Photo: Mark Conrad)