WESTPORT — Staples coach Jack McFarland listed developing his pitching staff at the top of his agenda between now and the start of the playoffs.
Putting Alex Deutsch on the mound may be the simplest solution.
Especially if the returns are anything close to what the Wreckers received today, when the sophomore threw a complete-game one-hitter in a 2-0 win over Ridgefield.
Taking the turn of Chad Knight, the Wreckers’ top starter, Deutsch threw 83 pitches, 61 for strikes, and did not walk a batter. When he was hit hard, the ball magnetically found a Staples player in its path.
“We really wanted to just rest Chad a little this week,” McFarland said. “We had Chad in the hole if things got ugly. If things got a little shaky at the end. But Alex’s pitch count was so low we just let him finish the game. They had some great swings but he didn’t hurt himself with any walks, he got ahead of every hitter and our defense played well.”
Deutsch seemed unfazed by his performance against a team that tied the Wreckers for the regular season title a year ago and then went on to reach the state final.
“Getting that first-pitch strike, Coach McFarland always talks about that,” Deutsch said. “How it’s the biggest pitch in baseball. I just tried to get ahead of every hitter and go from there. I had my fastball going today, the curveball felt good, the change-up was good at times. Overall a pretty good game.”
Staples (13-2, 10-1 FCIAC) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Adam Petro’s two-run double and might have done a lot more damage if not for a prior well-executed double play by the Tigers.
Ridgefield starter Luke Darrientos gave up a single and hit a batter to start the second, and coach Paul Fabbri brought in Jack Costello, who matched Deutsch the rest of the way.
Costello worked out of the jam and allowed just two hits. Staples finished with five.
The difference was one Fabbri admitted is becoming a concern. The Tigers have flourished in recent seasons behind exceptional pitching and defense and timely hitting. Right now the latter commodity has been absent.
The Tigers (10-5, 6-5) scored just five runs in three games this week to go 1-2. Take away games against Bridgeport and Trinity Catholic and they have scored just 45 runs. In the last nine games they have not topped three runs except for the games against the Hilltoppers and Crusaders.
“We’ve struggled,” Fabbri said. “We’re wasting real good pitching and the margin for error is so slim. We have a kid like Costello come in and do a masterful job against one of the better offenses in the state, making pitches and doing an awesome job. We have five games left to figure how to swing it or we’re going to do some extra practicing during playoff week.”
St. Joseph, one of the league’s top hitting teams, comes to Ridgefield on Monday.
McFarland now has the option of starting Knight in one of two big games, against Darien on Monday or two days later at Fairfield Ludlowe, which is one game behind the Wreckers atop the league standings.
And the Wreckers’ pitching, with Harry Azadian the reliable No. 2 starter, is shaping up as one of their biggest strengths.
“Deutsche came in and gave us a nice performance,” McFarland said. “He works ahead. He pounds the strike zone. And he’s got a changeup and a curveball, he’s not afraid to throw them and the defense likes to play behind him because they know he’s going to throw strikes. He keeps everybody in the game.”