TRUMBULL — For the second time in 48 hours, the Staples High School baseball team struggled defensively, saw its starting pitcher unable to get through the 5th inning and remained waiting for what should be one of the state’s top offenses to get untracked.
But unlike the previous day’s 5-1 loss to Amity, the Wreckers were able to patch together runs and took advantage of a strong combined pitching performance to come away with a 6-2 win over Trumbull in an early-season battle between two of the preseason favorites in the FCIAC.
“The weather’s crappy, the wind is blowing straight in, the ball’s not going anywhere,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “Getting back in the rhythm, it will take time, but it was a good win.”
After a rare preseason with warm weather and little precipitation allowed teams to get in a lot of quality work early, the unseasonably cold weather last week forced teams indoors and saw basic skill sets regress with the temperatures.
“It’s the beginning of the season, I didn’t have my best today and I’m still trying to get into a groove,” said Ryan Fitton, who threw the first four innings and got the win for Staples (2-1). “We’re trying to get on the same page. It will take a few games. We didn’t play our best today. We still have a ton of things to clean up.”
Fitton, who allowed four hits and one earned run, left after walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth. Fitton did not pitch poorly, but rather lacked the command that would be expected after waiting over a week into the season to make his opening start.
“I thought I did good for my first start; I could have done a lot better,” Fitton said. “I was a little wild. It will take a little while just getting into that groove and feeling comfortable pitching.”
If the postponements yielded any benefits, it was the opportunity for Staples coach Jack McFarland to bring in Ban Casparius from shortstop to pitch the final three innings and get the save.
“It’s nice to have one of the best pitchers in Connecticut when we need him at the end,” McFarland said.
Casparius came in after the Wreckers had broken a 1-1 tie with three runs in the top of the 5th, and it was their youngest player who had the biggest hit. After Mike Fanning drew a two-out walk with the based loaded to put Staples in the lead, freshman Chad Knight, who made his pitching debut in the loss to Amity, hit a 1-2 pitch into leftfield to drive in two and make the score 4-1.
Trumbull (1-2) took advantage of an error to get a run back in the bottom of the 5th but would get no closer.
Staples tacked on a pair of runs in the 7th when Nate Panzer hit a leadoff single and Casparius reached on an error that put both runners in scoring position. Chris Drbal was brought in off the bench to put down a bunt, and his perfect sacrifice brought Panzer home. Fanning then added his second RBI with a base hit.
Trumbull ace Joe Nemchek had his moments, but unlike Fitton wasn’t always able to work out of jams, sometimes through no fault of his own. Four of the six runs he gave up were earned. He struck out seven but walked six. He, too, seemed affected by a lack of real work.
“He’s a battler,” Trumbull coach Phil Pacelli said.
Pacelli said he remained unconcerned by his team’s erratic start.
“The bottom line is they got a few more timely hits than we did and that was the difference,” Pacelli said. “We’re going to be fine though. Nobody’s going to remember this game in a month. We want to be playing our best ball in May. “It’s only a matter of time before we get things together here.”