FAIRFIELD — Westhill baseball coach DJ Mulvany is a proponent of the belief there is no such thing as a statement game, a sound approach in a sport where success can be fleeting and, on the high school level, where postseason like regular season games are one-and-done, the more talented team is often trumped by one with a superior pitcher.
So lets call the Vikings’ 9-6 win over Fairfield Warde on Monday afternoon a reaffirmation, another indicator pushing the needle in the right direction by those who labeled the team a preseason sleeper.
“Every team is good and you have to go out and compete,” Mulvany said.
Westhill (4-2, 3-1 FCIAC) does not have a shutdown starter, but the way the team is composed it can succeed without one. It does possess a solid staff of pitchers who can deliver quality innings and then let the offense and defense take over, and Monday’s game was a perfect example. Starting pitcher Mike Lisinichia gave up four runs through the first four innings, but managed to keep the score close by stranding baserunners and not giving up the big inning.
That was enough until the Westhill batters delivered big hits and took advantage of the Mustangs’ uncharacteristic poor play. The Vikings scored four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 9-4 lead. When Lisinichia labored in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk, closer Hunter Semmel came in and retired five of the final six hitters, allowing one run on a balk and another on Jack Myers’ single.
“Michael battled on the mound early, battled through some adversity and then we were able to chip away at the lead, take it and then hold onto it, which was good,” Mulvany said.
Westhill patched together six of its nine hits against Warde ace Reece Maniscalco, who like his teammates suffered through an off day. Seven different Vikings had hits and seven drove in runs.
For Westhill seniors like Johnny Spoto, it was their first win against the Mustangs.
“Today we really came together as a team,” Spoto said. “Our start was slow. We made adjustments and we did what we could do as a team. It was a team win today. Our pitchers, if they throw strikes, we play defense behind them.”
Spoto and Lisinchia shared one commonality: each hit a home run.
The Mustangs (5-2, 2-2) also got a home run, from Zavier Espinel, but on a day they moved into the No. 9 position in the state writers’ poll, all the positives — Myers, Maniscalco and Espinel each had two hits and Maniscalco drove in two runs — were undone by four errors, including a dropped fly ball in the outfield and two errors on the same play that allowed the Vikings’ Anthony Frangiose, who had walked following Spoto’s home run run in the sixth and stole second, to score.
Warde coach Brett Conner proved prescient, calling out his players after pregame infield-outfield for what he considered a lackadaisical effort and then again in the sixth inning.
“I thought we lost every aspect of the game today,” Conner said. “We came out flat. They never showed that in any game before today. They are high energy guys. They just didn’t bring it today. I thought early on we were playing very well and in the fifth inning I kind of feel like we folded.”
Mulvany, when he has talent, tries to low-key his assessments like a poker player trying to conceal a strong hand. But it is obvious Mulvany is pleased with what he has seen from his team one-third of the way into the season.
“There’s nothing fancy about what we’re doing,” Mulvany said. “We are being aggressive and we are playing well defensively. Offensively our top half of the lineup can drive the ball and the bottom part can make things happen. Offensively I think we can be productive and put up some runs. We just have to get our pitchers throwing strikes.”