Baseball

Brown’s Home Run, Marren’s Relief Help Carry Darien Into Semifinals

Darien third baseman Peter Marren catches a ball in foul territory as catcher Cord Fox helps with the call. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

WESTPORT — Darien baseball coach Mike Scott admitted he was weighing his options to preserve a one-run lead before making a pitching change in the sixth inning of today’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Staples.

Peter Marren helped make the decision easier.

Marren, one of the returning seniors from last year’s league championship team, offered a persuasive case for the opportunity, and his coach obliged. Surviving a bases-loaded threat, Marren saved a 4-3 victory.

“I went up to him and said I want the ball,” Marren said. “I just had faith in myself to get the last six outs for the team.”

Marren survived consecutive walks in the sixth that loaded the bases, then held firm after the Wreckers led off the final inning with a base hit.

“It’s a senior on the hill and he wanted the ball,” Scott said. “Just a gutty effort by him. He was able to settle down enough to make his pitches. He told me he wanted the ball and that was enough for me.”

Staples’s Drew Rogers slides safely into home as Darien catcher Cord Fox doesn’t get the throw in time. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The Blue Wave (13-8), who started the week with a playoff spot unsecured, won twice to earn the sixth seed. They will face No. 2 Wilton in Monday’s semifinals as all four even-numbered seeds advanced.

Casey Brown, who has probably gone overlooked compared to some of the other great batters in the FCIAC, came through with a two-run homer in the fifth to drive in what proved to be the winning run.

“He’s been Mr. Clutch all year,” said Scott, who thought Brown now has 33 RBIs this season. “That’s a perfect example why. He wants to be in those big spots. He’s one of the best hitters in the conference and the state. He keeps coming through. He’s a complete hitter. All fields, as you saw today.”

The third-seeded Wreckers (13-8) scored on a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to get within 4-3. They could not get a run across, and that was the case again an inning later, after Marren replaced starter Henry Williams.

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Max Popken hit a leadoff single and Marren walked consecutive batters with two outs. But he induced Staples star Chad Knight to fly out to rightfield.

“Interesting,” Marren said of his outing. “I got Chad Knight, who obviously is the last person I wanted coming up with the bases loaded. I threw him a curveball down and away and he didn’t get all of it.”

Staples coach Jack McFarland said the defining number in the game was 9: the number of runners his team left on base.

“We had all our opportunities,” McFarland said. “We had traffic on the bases, the right guys up and sometimes the ball falls in the gap and sometimes it doesn’t. It just wasn’t our day. Missed opportunities. Somebody’s got to bang it through. They got a couple of two-out hits and that’s why they won.”

The game featured each team’s top pitcher — Williams and the Wreckers’ Ben Casparius. Each lasted five innings.

Casparius staked Staples to a 1-0 lead in the first when he drilled a line drive over the fence in center.

Williams answered with an RBI single of his own an inning later, and the teams traded runs in the third. The Blue Wave’s came on an error; Casparius hit an RBI single.

Casparius, who finished with three hits, allowed six hits, struck out four and did not walk a batter. Williams gave up nine hits, struck out four and walked three. Knight struck out three in two innings of relief.

Darien kept its hopes alive of becoming the first team to win back to back league titles since Staples in 2008-09.

Talking about qualifying for a tournament where lower seeds have had as much success as higher ones in recent years because baseball is a sport not conducive to single-elimination play, Scott said, “All we want is a chance, get the opportunity and see what you can do with it.”