STAMFORD — Trinity Catholic baseball coach Tracy Nichols led a parade of players up the hill overlooking Mickey Lione Field prior to Friday’s final regular season game with Westhill.
Nichols introduced the team to Joe Marrucco, whose father, Anthony, is the person the trophy awarded to the Stamford city champion is named after.
“The one thing I’ve sensed recently that’s been missing in the city of Stamford is the history, the great history, that this city has had over the years,” Nichols said.
The Crusaders then went out and made themselves a small part of it. Behind the pitching of ace Randy Polonia, they overcame a 1-0 deficit in the opening inning with two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth to claim the city title with a 4-1 win, knocking the slumping Vikings out of the FCIAC Tournament in the process.
“It’s nice to win the city championship,” said Polonia, who pitched a four-hitter and struck out eight. “That’s big. We wanted to get the highest seed possible for states. We came out here, we wanted to get the W and we just wanted to be .500.
A team dismissed early in the season as totally dependent on victories when Polonia pitched, the Crusaders ended the regular season at 10-10 over all and 9-9 in conference play, staying in the league playoff chase until the final week.
“I think, and we’ve proven it, that we can be competitive with anybody,” Nichols said.
Both teams exceeded preseason expectations, but the Vikings will not take much solace now after losing for the fourth straight time. They had leads in each game.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can pinpoint,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “The one (bad) inning. If we’re out maybe we don’t deserve to be in it.”
The Vikings (10-10, 10-8) took a 1-0 lead in the first with an unearned run. After a throwing error by the Crusaders on a failed attempt to turn a double play, Matt Gorey singled home a run.
That was the extent of the offense against Polonia, who improved to 5-1.
“He was dealing,” Mulvany said. “That first inning he was unable to locate his slider, and after that first inning he was really sharp. He’s special.”
Cam Elkins pitched well for the Vikings and maintained the lead until the fifth, when the Crusaders went ahead, with the help of their own unearned run.
Matt Fraioli, the No. 9 hitter, had a leadoff single and Polonia’s double put runners in scoring position. Matt Christensen hit an RBI single and Polonia scored when the ball was bobbled in the outfield.
“That kid pitched a gutsy game,” Nichols said of Elkins. “DJ has done a really nice job with that team. He got good pitching. We got great pitching.”
Trinity added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth on RBI hits from Fraoli and Christensen.
The Crusaders finished with 12 hits: three by Christensen and two each from Polonia, Fraioli, Tom Costigan and Dillon Daine.
Polonia appeared to have his best stuff over the final innings.
“It’s always been like that,” he said. “Even when I was younger, I would always get better as the game went on.”
Both teams now will focus on getting ready for the state tournaments.
“A very satisfying win,” Nichols said. “I’m very happy with the kids’ performance. They battled, they competed. The best thing that they do is compete.”