Baseball

Commentary: FCIAC Tournament Week A Showcase For League Balance

Staples’ James D’Amico is congratulated after his game-winning hit in the FCIAC final. (Matt Dewkett)

The holiday weekend left us no time to reflect back on FCIAC Tournament week, no bridge as we rush into the state tournaments that are under way. It seems hard to believe the end of the school-year sports season is just 10 days away.

We have had some special spring conference playoffs with unique storylines, like Darien dominating in just about every sport a few years ago. But this year we were left with more captivating moments than usual.

For dramatic finishes we can start with the two sports that generate the most publicity, baseball and boys lacrosse. You can debate which day was more special, but here you have to start with the boys lacrosse semifinals, which gave us two unbelievable stories.

How often do you see a Final Four game — any lacrosse game — decided at the buzzer? That was the case in last Tuesday’s first semifinal, when New Canaan’s Chris Canet made a rush at goal and scored as time expired for an 11-10 win over Ridgefield. The Tigers were riding momentum, coming back from a 10-8 deficit to tie the game with goals 41 seconds apart, the second by Ryan Colsey with just 26 seconds remaining.

But the Rams won the ensuing draw and Canet, like a basketball point guard at the end of a game, drove the lane and finished.

That would have been tough to top, but Wilton, which was 1-7 at the start of the season, followed with a stunning 4-3 upset against Darien. Granted, due to prior injuries this is a different Warrior team than the one at midseason. Still, it was able to frustrate the Blue Wave in a manner few teams have this year.

Some suggested this was a bigger upset than Ridgefield’s win over Darien last spring, but that was a more dominant Blue Wave team and it came in a state final and ended a 76-game winning streak.

Quintin O’Connell scores during New Canaan’s boys lacrosse final win. (Gregory Vasil)

The Rams held off Wilton in the championship, 8-7, completing a Final Four run of one-goal games.

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Staples baseball fans may state their own case for the biggest moment of the week. The top-seeded Wreckers trailed Fairfield Ludlowe in the bottom of the seventh, 1-0. There were no runners on with one out and, following an Andrew Moy single, one with two outs. A game-tying pinch single by Kevin Rabacs and walkoff base hit by James D’Amico gave the Wreckers a 2-1 win.

In a true anomaly, the higher seed won all seven tournament games, which I am guessing last happened decades ago. Lower seeds have won the title about as often as high seeds in what ideally is not a single-elimination sport.

In the taken-for-granted department, we offer up the Darien girls lacrosse team. The Blue Wave had won seven straight league titles and 17 in 25 years, so its 12-7 win over New Canaan was hardly a surprise, though it was pressed by the Rams after the rivals played to a 5-5 tie through the first half.

While the power structure has not changed, teams like Staples, which reached the semifinals, and Fairfield Ludlowe are inching their way toward the top.

In the way-overshadowed department, we offer up Payton Doiron, who threw a no-hitter to give St. Joseph a 1-0 win over Trumbull. Doiron walked the bases loaded in the first, then retired 19 straight batters to lead the Cadets to their fifth title in six years.

Doiron allowed just one run in three games against good hitting teams.

Two teams ended long championship droughts. The Darien boys tennis team won its first title in 30 years; the Ridgefield boys track team won its first in 42 years.

Few finals were routs. The league is becoming more competitive in all sports. Teams that have never had a sniff at a championship, or not in a long time, now hold realistic hopes.

The present is rock solid. The future? Even brighter.