STAMFORD — With the final games of the regular season packed with opponents battling for high seeds in the FCIAC Tournament, the stretch run for the Westhill baseball team is almost like a playoff before the playoffs.
And in the first of two games within seven days against the schools that started the week tied for the No. 1 seed, the Vikings rode the arm and bat of Michael Lisinicchia to nose into the lead.
Lisinicchia pitched a complete-game two-hitter and set the tone with a monstrous two-run homer in the first inning of a 5-0 home win against Ridgefield.
“Michael’s been tremendous for us on the mound and offensively, and this is the best he’s pitched,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “We needed it today for him to work deep. We have a gauntlet to work through these next couple of games and we needed him to be efficient. It was huge for us today for a lot of different reasons. He was confident and it was fun to watch him pitch.”
Lisinicchia struck out nine and walked two. The Tigers loaded the bases in the fifth on a pair of errors sandwiched around a single, but Lisinicchia induced an inning-ending fly out. He gave up a single in the fifth but stranded seven runners to get the shutout.
“I think today I felt the best,” Lisinicchia said. “Playing one of these better teams, top of the league, it pushes me to the limit. It helped that I had all three pitches today. I was focusing warming up on pitching as well as I could and I think I did a good job.”
Westhill (13-3, 11-2) enters its final four games with a one-game lead over New Canaan, which lost to Staples today, and a 1 1/2 game lead over the Wreckers.
The Tigers’ fourth straight loss dropped them to 12-5 over all, 9-4 in the league and into a fourth-place tie with Norwalk, pending the outcome of Wilton’s game today.
It also heightened the concern for Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri, whose team’s previous losses were each by one run. Fabbri said take away a four-run inning last weekend against St. Joseph and his team has scored just nine runs in the previous 39 innings.
“That’s not going to win too many baseball games,” Fabbri said. “This is obviously not a Lowe or a Price day so we are kind of piecing it together.”
Fabbri was referring to Collin Lowe and Alex Price, his top two pitchers. John Thrasher, who had a strong stint in Monday’s 2-1, 11-inning loss to Staples, got the start and allowed three runs in three innings.
The first pair came in the first when Lisinicchia crushed a ball over the fence in right-center for a quick 2-0 advantage.
“It feels great to put two on the board in the first inning,” Lisinicchia said. “I try to lay off the curveball as much as possible and then when they throw me a fastball I do my best to help the team.”
With the Tigers slumping, Fabbri said the early deficit was even more disheartening.
“I felt like it was kind of a fait accompli after the kid hit the home run, it kind of had that feel to it with the way we’ve been scuffling with the bats,” Fabbri said. “It’s troubling and we go again, right?”
Bobby Zmarzlak singled in the third and scored on Anthony Frangiose’s sacrifice fly.
Dean DePreta, the only player on the day with two hits, and Hunter Semmel later drove in runs.
Mulvany said he doesn’t mind seeing teams he very well could again in the postseason with little time in between.
“It is important for us to play better and win tight games because that’s what we are anticipating down the stretch,” Mulvany said. “You want to see everyone’s best shot, stay sharp, learn how to win the tight games and pull ahead when you have a lead. They’re all teachable moments when you play against teams like that.”