WESTPORT — On the surface, the Staples baseball team’s 9-5 win over Darien on Friday afternoon neither advanced the storyline nor moved the needle with two wins left in the regular season.
The Wreckers got what Ryder Chasin accurately described of his outing as a gutsy performance from their pitcher. Chasin relinquished an early 4-0 lead as the Blue Wave scored twice in each of the third and fourth innings, then settled down and allowed just one run in the seventh, with Justin Gallanty coming in for the final out.
Chasin later thanked coach Jack McFarland for not giving him an early hook.
“I was starting to worry about it, especially when I saw the pitchers warming up in the pen, but I said to myself I’m not coming out of this game,” Chasin said.
It is that kind of attitude, coupled with a deep pitching staff and a lineup that is starting to heat up with the weather, that allowed the Wreckers (12-3, 11-2 FCIAC) to open up a game and a half lead over both Darien and Fairfield Warde for first place in the conference standings.
If that did not put a bull’s-eye on the Wreckers’ backs, Chasin helped attach one afterward when he said, “What I think is that we’re the best team in the FCIAC and we feel we’re the team to beat right now.”
Chasin’s tone was one of confidence, not arrogance. He said the Wreckers put great value in retaining their view atop the leaderboard.
“Winning the regular season title is big for me,” Chasin said. “They don’t hand out trophies, but I wanted to come out of this game and stand alone.”
McFarland’s perspective is understandably a little different: he’s seen lower seeds win the FCIAC title as often as top seeds over the past decade. He did it with the Wreckers during a run of three titles in four years from 2008-11.
“What I call it is the golden ticket, getting one of the eight spots,” said McFarland, who was insistent there has been no talk during a week that started with a dramatic win over New Canaan about positioning.
Both the Rams and Darien tested the Wreckers’ mettle, and McFarland was most pleased about that.
“This was a good team win,” McFarland said. “What I like about today is we faced a little adversity and we responded to it.”
Seven different players contributed to a 10-hit attack for a team that was occasionally offensively challenged during the first half of the season. Nate Panzer led the way with three RBIs, while Ross Poulley had two hits, including a home run.
“Our lineup is starting to produce some runs, and that’s the big difference,” McFarland said.
If Staples did not see its status change over the course of two hours, neither did Darien, for better or worse.
Friday’s final score was somewhat misleading: the Wreckers scored four times in the bottom of the sixth, with two of the runs coming on an error.
The Blue Wave (11-3, 9-3) started the day as the FCIAC team with the best overall record. They have now lost two straight, though a one-run loss to St. Joseph and competitive game with Staples are hardly inducements for panic.
There are quality wins over Trumbull and Greenwich, but one senses that the Blue Wave are not yet taken seriously, forced to continually jump over hoops for the skeptics.
“We’ve got to go out and earn the respect,” said Scott, a former All-FCIAC player for the Blue Wave. “We’re usually not in this situation. We’ve got to go out and prove we belong here.”
There is nothing in Darien’s body of work thus far to prove otherwise, and Friday’s comeback provided further evidence.
“We got down four early and we battled back, and that’s been the MO of the team this year,” Scott said. “We never stopped believing we couldn’t get back in the game.”
Darien has a big week coming up, notably on Wednesday against New Canaan.
“We’re going to earn the respect by playing our brand of baseball,” Scott said.
That was essentially the same sentiment, perhaps packaged differently, from the Staples side of the field.
Right now the teams that would be the second through seventh seeds are separated by just a game.
There is very little to distinguish between the top teams. The road to the FCIAC title will be paved by execution.
Staples had the better of it on Friday. The next time? Stay tuned.