STAMFORD—New Canaan baseball coach Mitch Hoffman describes a symbiotic relationship between JR Anderson, his No. 1 starter, and the rest of the lineup.
“He’s going to get picked up by our bats sometimes, and he’s going to pick us up sometimes,” Hoffman said.
That was never more evident than Thursday afternoon at Westhill. The Rams erupted for five runs in the top of the 3rd and a lead they played with the rest of the way, but one that soon became tenuous.
The Vikings, one of the early-season surprises because of their scrappiness, scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning and added a fourth and the threat for more after New Canaan made three successive infield errors in the bottom of the 4th.
But Anderson induced a fielder’s choice to minimize the damage and ended up going 6 2/3 strong innings for a 9-5 win.
“JR did a good job, and that’s what we want to see,” Hoffman said. “JR battled through adversity. He had one bad inning where there were some things I didn’t like, but he battled through it.”
Matt Toth paced an 11-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with 3 runs and 3 RBIs for the Rams (4-1, 2-1 FCIAC). His 2-run single in the 7th broke the game open.
“I was looking for a fastball and I got it on the outside part of the plate and took it the other way,” Toth said.
Toth said it took one time around the order to adjust to Westhill starter Cam Elkins’ steady diet of off speed pitches.
“We’re a fastball hitting team and they took advantage of that early,” Toth said. “We eventually got our bats going.”
Erik Jager had a hit and drove in 3 runs for New Canaan. Zack Smith was 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs, while Alex LaPolice had 2 hits and scored twice.
Westhill (3-2, 2-2) came into the game, as its coach, DJ Mulvany, admitted as something of a question mark, straddling the fence between contender and middle of the pack team.
It will take a larger body of work to see where they end up, but the Vikings’ grit has been one of their greatest attributes to date. They rebounded in the 3rd to get back in the game with three hits against Anderson, including doubles from John Spoto and Dante Fargnoli.
“I love that about this team,” Mulvany said. “I love this group of guys. They really fight hard. There have been a couple of instances where we’ve had mental lapses that allowed teams to have big innings, and we’ve always scrapped back. That’s a great characteristic that this team has. They battle, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Spoto was 3-for-4, with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. Luke Dawson had 2 hits and drove in 2 runs, while Matt Gorey added 2 hits.
“We know who New Canaan is,” Mulvany said. “There are probably some questions about us, but I like how we’re playing. We’re playing hard, having good at bats, good approaches to the plate.”
Westhill’s resilience came as no surprise to Hoffman.
“I think we played well, but like I told the guys, DJ’s never going to die,” Hoffman said. “In my mind he’s one of the best coaches in the FCIAC. He gets them to play harder than any other team we face all year long.”
The Rams bounced back from a loss to Greenwich last Friday with a pair of wins this week.
And they rebounded from their brief defensive lapse against the Vikings.
“Errors happen, but it is very uncharacteristic for us to have three in a row,” Toth said. “A lot of respect to JR for picking us up. It’s very easy to break when you are expecting your fielders behind you to do the job and they don’t do it, but he kept mowing them down.”