It is championship week in the FCIAC — the last one of the school year — and fittingly the one with the most intrigue because of parity.
Starting Tuesday, there will be 20 games in five days to decide the baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse champions (and that’s not including the eight lacrosse quarterfinal games held so far.
The conference’s track championships are also Tuesday, while the finals will be held in boys and girls tennis and boys volleyball.
Here is a quick breakdown in four sports that command plenty of watching.
The balance we expected played out — the playoff picture wasn’t finalized until the final game of the regular season, the final domino seeing that only one quarterfinal matchup was finalized to that point.
Staples won the regular season title, and after that just three games separated the last seven seeds.
It is difficult discounting any of the eight from lacking the means to running the table this week. Each has a top No. 1 pitcher, which makes all four quarterfinals a grab bag. Many have two good starters, an important need for lasting power.
The Wreckers have earned the right to be labeled the team to beat — but they are not that much better than the rest of the pack. Drawing a hot Greenwich team that underachieved for the first two-thirds of the season is certainly not much of a reward.
I don’t think any of the eight teams can be labeled a sleeper. St. Joseph’s prize for being the second seed? Facing Fairfield Ludlowe’s Kevin Hickey. If the Falcons advance, do they have enough pitching for two more wins?
Since lower seeds fare as well as higher seeds in baseball — a single-elimination tournament in the sport is a huge mitigating factor in determining the top team — the two I liked the most before seeing their draws were Trumbull and Greenwich.
The Eagles got off to a slow start, then caught fire before losing their final two games, including one to New Canaan on a walkoff grand slam as the Rams scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh.
And guess who Trumbull opens with? That’s right, it is headed back to Mead Park. But you have to love the 1-2 punch of Colin Keyes and Avery Santos on the mound. The Cardinals have two strong starting pitchers, but will they hit enough?
This isn’t going more than a few baby steps out on the limb, but if Staples beats Greenwich, the team that emerges from the Staples-New Canaan-Trumbull trio is going to be tough in the final.
It is hard to believe we are going to see a repeat of a year ago, when New Canaan won its first ever title, out of the No. 6 spot.
St. Joseph, led by Lauren Pitney, Tori Ceballos, Mikaela Mallozzi and Nicole Williams, has the most complete team and Darien, with Erika Osherow, the best pitcher, which makes for tough first-round match-ups, respectively, for New Canaan and Trumbull.
As for the 3-6 seeds, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the lower one won either game.
The bottom seeds are all young, which likely discounts long runs.
Most people will probably be surprised if a St. Joseph-Darien rematch — the Cadets’ lone loss came in the first meeting, 1-0 — is not the featured attraction in Thursday’s final.
Don’t discount Greenwich or Fairfield Ludlowe. The Falcons have one of the state’s best hitters, Brenna Martini, while the Cardinals have no superstars but are solid all the way around.
Granted, the memory is somewhat spotty, but I cannot remember a time when four teams in any sport played as at high a level simultaneously as Darien, Ridgefield, Greenwich and New Canaan are right now.
The Rams are the two-time defending champions — and a No. 4 seed.
Quite simply, the Blue Wave going through the regular season unbeaten, given their strength of schedule, ranks as one of the greatest accomplishments in league history. But as coach Jeff Brameier, who won his 500th game Friday, is quick to point out, it is reduced to a nice footnote without the title.
And that will not come easy. First up for Darien is New Canaan, its biggest rival, still smarting after an overtime loss in the first meeting.
If the Blue Wave survive, they might be looking at another team they defeated by one goal: Ridgefield. The Tigers are not without payback on their minds in the semifinal with Greenwich, a team they lost to in four overtimes during the regular season.
Any of the four schools can win the title and the three games are a treat for area lacrosse fans.
Can anyone take down Darien, winner of nine of its last 10 games?
On the surface, the Blue Wave look like the surest bet in the four sports, but they are hardly a lock. Greenwich, their semifinal opponent, staged a furious second-half rally and lost by just two goals in the teams’ first meeting.
Waiting in the final with a win would be either rival New Canaan or a strong Wilton team.
The Blue Wave have all the pieces in place but have been susceptible to lapses after halftime. If they play at their best, it will take a big effort to deny them the title.