DARIEN — Alex Price’s first appearance out of the bullpen did not go as smoothly as his four starts this season.
Well, it did initially, when Price came on in the 6th inning today for Ridgefield and struck out the side in order, trying to preserve a 4-1 lead against Darien and a strong start by Collin Lowe.
Then came a walk and a home run by Peter Marren, followed by a Casey Brown single that put the tying run on base for the Blue Wave.
Brown remained stranded as Price came back to strike out the side to get his first save in a 4-3 win that kept the Tigers a half game ahead of New Canaan for the best record in the conference.
“I saw it off the bat and knew it was gone, but you can’t dwell on it, you have to have a short memory,” said Price, who is 4-0 with three complete games and now averaging more than one strikeout per inning. “You have to face the next three batters and strike them out, and that’s what I did.”
Price has arguably been the FCIAC’s best pitcher this year, which says something considering the depth in the league, if not his own dugout. Lowe struck out four and gave up six hits over five innings, including an RBI single in the first by Brown, who finished with three hits, that gave Darien a 1-0 lead.
“He got his nose bloodied a little bit there but the response was unbelievable,” Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri said of Price. “You have to love guys who don’t wilt in the moment. He doesn’t do that. He’s becoming one of those guys.”
John Thrasher, who has been merely very good after finishing among the league leaders in batting a year ago, delivered the key hit for Ridgefield (11-1, 8-1 FCIAC), a three-run homer off reliever Justin Jordan, who had just entered the game.
“I thought he was kind of passive on the first pitch of the at bat, but that was good for him to get him rocking and rolling a little bit because he does everything else,” Fabbri said.
Thrasher finished with two of the Tigers’ six hits. Colin Motill led off the 6th with a double and scored on Pete Columbia’s hit, tying the game at 1-1 and setting the stage for Thrasher.
Then the Tigers turned to Price.
“Physically it’s a little different but you have to have the same mental toughness as a starter,” Price said. “I felt like I was throwing a little harder but I had the same mindset. This was a big win for us, we have a tough schedule coming up but this game proved we can beat any team in the league.”
Henry Williams went the first five innings for Darien (6-5, 5-3). He had a strong outing last week against Danbury but took the loss in part because of three errors. His performance was another bright spot for the Blue Wave.
“He was spectacular again,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “Second outing in a row that he was impressive. We had some good defense behind him today, which I wish we had last week, but if he keeps giving us outings like this we are going to be OK.”
Darien, which won all the close games a year ago, is 0-4 in those decided by two or fewer runs this season, but Scott credited Thrasher for a good at bat.
“It came down to one swing today and they had one more runner on than we did at that point,” Scott said. “I thought we made a good pitch there. Justin made a good pitch, got in on his hands and he just got enough of it to get it out. Justin did what he had to do there. It was in a good spot.”