DARIEN — Danbury coach Shaun Ratchford before today’s game at Darien used colorful words to describe how he had no idea what to expect from Brian McCarthy.
Ratchford’s uncertainty was not surprising, given that McCarthy was making just his second varsity appearance and first start.
By the end of an entertaining 6-4 win over the Blue Wave, Ratchford had much to be pleased about, including the long-term ramifications.
In the middle of an arduous stretch that includes a busy week, McCarthy overcame a shaky start to settle down and pitch six strong innings for the win.
“He gave us the chance,” Ratchford said. “That’s what we talk about, trusting your teammates. It’s about throwing pitches, hitting spots. We made hardly any errors today. You are going to win in this league if you play defense, hit spots and get some hits.”
After the Hatters took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, McCarthy allowed two of the runs back in the bottom of the inning, giving up three hits and a walk. McCarthy yielded just three more hits, two in succession in the 3rd, when Darien scored twice to tie the game at 4-4, but left the bases loaded.
McCarthy was removed after walking the leadoff batter in the 7th. Justin Solimine came in and got a game-ending strikeout after loading the bases.
Darien (5-5, 4-3 FCIAC) stranded 10 runners.
“What I loved is that he didn’t have a curveball for four to five innings, Ratchford said about McCarthy. “We kept getting on him. That’s the hard part, now can you command it, can you control it? He got that in the 5th and 6th and kept them a little off balance.”
Ratchford had his bullpen active as early as the second inning but got more than he expected from McCarthy at the most opportune time. After tomorrow’s game against Barlow, the Hatters (6-4, 4-3) will have played half of their 20-game season in just 14 days.
Ratchford said he altered his rotation, starting McCarthy over Solimine because he was more likely to keep pitches down, and Solimine would be more effective if able to close.
“We were inning by inning,” Ratchford said.
McCarthy did not lack confidence going up against the defending FCIAC champions.
“I wasn’t nervous, I knew we had good defense behind me,” McCarthy said. “I really wanted this game. All day I was thinking about it and I came out and got the win like I envisioned it.”
Darien starter Henry Williams gave up just five hits, including a two-run homer to McCarthy in the 1st, but was betrayed by a defense that committed five errors. Only three of the Hatters’ runs were earned.
“I can’t ask for anything more from Henry Williams,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “He pitched a great game. He was tremendous. We let down defensively a little bit. Make some plays behind him and it’s a different ballgame. We had opportunities to score. We couldn’t come up with that big hit and that’s the way it rolls sometimes. Give credit to their pitcher. He battled and he made pitches when he had to.”
Andrew Luis had two hits and Mike Halas also drove in two runs for Danbury.
Sean O’Malley finished with two hits and two RBIs for the Blue Wave, while Cord Fox added two hits.
“It was a heavyweight fight, you punch me, I punch you,” Ratchford said. “Who’s going to fall?”
Danbury dropped two undefeated teams within a four-day span, defeating Fairfield Ludlowe last Thursday and Ridgefield on Monday. It has followed a stretch of losing three of four by going 3-1 the last four games.
“For myself, I’m glad I was able to come out here and make a statement and do what I know I can do, and as a team I think we’re a lot better than our record shows,” McCarthy said. “If the two wins against undefeated teams didn’t put us on the map, I think this should give us some recognition in the league.”