WILTON — The combination of throwing a pitcher with just one varsity start against a team averaging 13 runs a game on appearance did not look like the recipe for the Wilton baseball team to continue its recent hot streak.
Perhaps the Wilton player most unconcerned by the odds in this afternoon’s game against St. Joseph was the one in the spotlight: Brendan Skewis.
“I knew they were undefeated,” Skewis said. “I was thinking they were sitting fastball first pitch. I kept throwing the curveball and they kept looking at it. And when they weren’t looking I got them to pop up so that was really effective.”
In an outing the Warriors hope will have long-term ramifications, Skewis pitched a complete-game 4-hitter and Cole Judelson broke open a tie with a two-run double in the sixth for a 3-1 win.
“Everyone made great plays so that put my confidence through the roof, especially when Cole got that hit,” Skewis said. “That really felt great.”
Wilton, the defending FCIAC champion that graduated most of its key contributors, won for the fourth time in five games and improved to 5-2 over all, 3-2 in league play.
It was a boost for a team that started the week getting run-ruled by Staples 12-1.
“It proves that this team, when they play well, can play with anybody,” Wilton coach Tim Eagen said. “It all starts on the mound. Now you know what type of team you can be because they were doubting themselves after Staples.”
Ryan Gabriele and Kyle Phillips each had two hits for Wilton, but it was Judelson who delivered the key blow with his drive to rightfield.
“Cole has been struggling and that is a gigantic hit for his confidence,” Eagen said.
Skewis struck out nine and walked two. There were some solid drives, but he had the fortune of having them directed at his fielders.
“Credit to him,” St. Joseph pitcher Jim Chaves said. “He mixed up his pitches well, kept us off balance and the balls we did hit hard it seems were right at guys. It was just one of those days.”
Wilton took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Gabriele hit a leadoff double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Phillips’ base hit.
The lead was short-lived as the Cadets (7-1, 5-1) answered back in the fifth. Aaron Kirby doubled and eventually scored on Owen Horne’s groundout.
From there it was a battle between Skewis and St. Joseph’s Ben Talbot, who also had a strong outing, giving up just six hits.
“I think I pitch best when it’s close because I’m definitely really comfortable with myself,” Skewis said. “When it’s like 1-0, 1-1, I know that my stuff is working.”
Skewis, who is 2-0, got the start for no other reason than it was his turn in the rotation. Eagen started getting him ready 24 hours earlier.
“Yesterday I challenged him in practice,” Eagen said. “He has struggled early in the first and second innings. So I told him he has to get us in there at the end of the second inning and he did. They hit some shots but they were caught. I felt really good for him because he really settled into a groove. The biggest thing today is he kept them off balance. They were looking for curveballs, we shot a fastball; they were looking for fastballs, we threw different speeds of curveballs. The biggest thing is he threw strikes.”
On a day when Westhill, Darien and Ridgefield were also handed their first conference losses, Chaves attributed the outcome to the reality of the sport: a 20-0 mark is not a realistic goal.
“There’s no panic at all,” Chaves said. “The win streak was going to come to an end at some point and today was the day. I think this will help us as the season goes on. I think the guys realize they are not invincible, they have to come out and perform every day. Today we just didn’t perform at our peak performance.”
Pitching was considered the Warriors’ greatest uncertainty, and by the end of the day Skewis’ mental state was evident when his words were the equal to his performance.
“We definitely have enough pitching,” Skewis said.