STAMFORD — On a day when it failed to show the sharpness that has carried it to the top of the standings, the Staples High School baseball team used two strong innings with the bats to topple Westhill on Monday, 9-2, and clinch the top seed for next week’s FCIAC Tournament.
Adam Dulsky led a 12-hit attack by going 4 for 4, including a three-run homer. Freshman Ben Casparius also had a three-run homer as the Wreckers (16-3, 15-2 FCIAC) did all of their scoring in the second and third innings.
“Yesterday we practiced for about four hours,” said Dulsky. “A lot at live at bats, a lot of good swings and I think it showed today. Right out of the gate. In the first inning we had the bases loaded and in the second inning we had the bases loaded again.”
The Wreckers twice stranded three runners, and committed three errors. But they flexed enough muscle to still come away with a resounding win in their penultimate game of the season.
“We got some things done that we wanted to see that will help us down the line,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said.
Staples starter Rob Vallone was not sharp early, giving up a run in the first when Dave Lauture led off with a single and eventually scored on Luke Dawson’s sacrifice fly, and another in the second.
Vallone settled down and, though he walked four over 5 2/3 innings, yielded just five his and struck out 10.
“Early on he was missing his spots, but as the game progressed he settled in,” said Dulsky, the Wreckers’ catcher. “The defense wasn’t as sharp as it has been all season. He battled.”
The top seed has not been a kind path over the years, but the Wreckers won the second of three league titles in four years out of that position in 2009.
“It’s nice to be the regular season champs, but the FCIAC Tournament is all about that first game,” McFarland said. “You are going to have two aces on the mound. Who’s going to get the big hit? You can win as No. 1 or you can win as 7 or 8.”
Dulsky also downplayed the significance of the accomplishment.
“This is irrelevant to us,” he said. “We’re just trying to get into the playoffs and get a home game. We got that last week. We’re just trying to play loose.”
McFarland, with a bye on Wednesday, now has the luxury of giving several of his pitchers work against Trumbull on Friday, then come back with Vallone on Tuesday in the playoff opener.
Earning a playoff berth is the lone focus for the Vikings (10-8, 10-6), who are now in a tie for the last three spots in the playoffs. Coach DJ Mulvany used three pitchers, but only Onyx Velez, in four innings of relief, was effective.
“Our Achilles’ heel all year is we just have bad innings,” Mulvany said. “We allow other teams to retake the lead or extend it. Credit Staples. They swung the bats very well today.
The Vikings have exceeded preseason expectations as Mulvany has done a masterful job with his lineup. They have also had to deal with tragedy, with the deaths first of popular former coach Frank Donatucci, and last week the father of Cam Curto.
Through it all the team has persevered and still has control of its postseason hopes. Westhill closes on the road, at Darien on Wednesday and at Trinity Catholic on Friday. Dan Rotkewicz and Cam Elkins will be the respective starting pitchers.
“Now we’ve got to press a little bit,” Mulvany said.