April 15. A day that gave hope to an entire league. It was on that afternoon that Darien, down 5-0 after three innings, battled back to within a run of St. Joseph.
Alas, the Blue Wave loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, unable to get the tying run across in what turned out to be a 5-4 loss.
But the takeaway was maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the line another team will have the Cadets against the ropes and then find a way to win.
It is a flicker because St. Joseph has looked unbeatable except for that one game. It has outscored opponents by a 75-11 margin. The closest games were won by four runs.
The Cadets would fare well against an All-Star team of their 18 league opponents’ best players. Veterans like shortstop Lauren Pitney, Nicole Williams, Amy Chacho, Lauren Blose and Katie Gardella have played up to very high expectations. Underclassmen like sophomores Hanna Errico, Melissa Bike and Jo Hillman, and freshman Hannah Hutchinson, have delivered.
Right now it seems more likely that St. Joseph will run the table to a second straight league title then get derailed.
But the Blue Wave, the biggest threat to that sweep, offered a glimmer of hope for the rest of the league, which is pretty balanced and, at the top spots, has played up to expectations.
Since it was hard deciding between two players, we are going to have our midseason Player and Pitcher of the Year, plus Coach of the Year. And, in the most fruitless task, we are going to predict the eight playoff qualifiers in order.
Most Valuable Player
Lauren Pitney, St. Joseph. Pitney is an extra-base hit machine, among the strongest players of the last decade. She is batting .500 in eight games, with two home runs and eight RBIs. She has been walked seven times, leading to a remarkable .613 on-base percentage. And that doesn’t take into account her outstanding play at shortstop.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Erika Osherow, Darien. Osherow and Pitney are 1A and 1B in the most-feared hitter department. Osherow is batting .604, with six home runs. On the mound, she is 8-1, with 104 strikeouts to just six walks, and three no-hitters. Osherow means more to her team than any other player in the league. As great as Pitney is, the Cadets are still a contender without her, just not as formidable. The Blue Wave are not without Osherow, who won a league title playing shortstop as a freshman. She’d like to bookend her career with another on the mound.
Coach Of The Year
Lauren Greywacz, Ridgefield. You look at the top five spots in the standings and there is just one surprise: Ridgefield. The Tigers, with sophomore pitcher Kailey Westington and contributions coming from a number of underclassmen, are the only team that didn’t belong in the picture a month ago. Credit goes to Greywacz, an assistant last season who has been the FCIAC’s Rookie of the Year so far in expediting her team’s development.
Predicted Order Of Finish
1. St. Joseph. Not sure who is going to be able to deny the Cadets an undefeated regular season. Trumbull would have the best chance. Pitcher Nicole Williams is actually an underrated talent, overshadowed by Pitney and her team’s offense.
2. Darien. The Blue Wave showed they can play with the Cadets in what was almost a memorable comeback win. Second baseman Kelly Vodola is another player at the top of the “underrated star” category.
3. Trumbull. The Eagles would appear to be the sleeper team if someone other than the two favorites are to break through. They have very good pitching and solid hitting across the board. The heart of their schedule awaits.
4. Stamford. Lets also put the Black Knights into that sleeper category. The combination of pitcher Sara Staley and a good young lineup that can hit and play defense make the Black Knights a solid all-around team.
5. Westhill. The Vikings have been all over the place during the first few weeks, but they have enough veteran leadership to settle down and have a strong second half.
6. Ridgefield. The Tigers have been the surprise team through the first half of the season. And I am honest enough to admit I had them eighth until they beat Ludlowe on Tuesday and bumped them up to sixth on the final edit before posting.
7. Fairfield Ludlowe. The Falcons have a three-game stretch against Darien-Stamford-Westhill prior to their final two games. That should determine how far they rise or low they fall.
8. Fairfield Warde. Warde or Norwalk? Norwalk or Warde? Two more surprise teams. Norwalk has the most impressive win (Trumbull) but the Mustangs have two of them (Ludlowe, Westhill).