Baseball

Westhill Withstands Staples’ Comeback Bid For 6th Straight Win

Hunter Semmel got the win in his first start for Westhill after working out of the bullpen all season. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

WESTPORT — The Westhill High School baseball team is flourishing behind its pitching, but inevitably there will be times when the offense is going to be needed as the dominant element.

The last three days, including today’s game at Staples, was further evidence that the Vikings are a complete team, and more than that when all the elements are aligned.

The Vikings pounded out 12 hits, took an 8-2 lead and then withstood a late comeback by the Wreckers for an 8-6 win, their sixth in a row and ninth in the last 10 games.

Staple’ Drew Rogers tries to turn a double play after forcing Westhill’s Nick Rich out at second base. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Westhill had allowed just 15 runs in its first 10 games and six came in a loss to Weston. Following a 9-7 win over St. Joseph on Saturday, it again tapped the offense.

“We were just hitting,” said shortstop Dean DePreta, who went 4 for 4 and drove in two runs. Defensively we were a little down but offensively, one through nine, we’re just hitting the baseball hard.”

Hunter Semmel, who pitched the first 5 1/3 innings for the win, added a pair of doubles and finished with 4 RBIs. Bobby Zmarzlak and Joey Skarad had two hits apiece.

“Same effort Saturday, where a lot of guys contributed,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “You are going to have to win a lot of types of ways. You are going to have to win a 3-2 game, or a 2-1 game, or you are going to have to win when you’re defense isn’t playing sharp or your pitcher is getting squeezed or doesn’t have his best control. A good team can win both types of ways.”

Westhill improved to 10-2 over all, and at 8-1 remained a half game behind Ridgefield for the best record in league play.

Semmel, who has been masterful out of the bullpen, got his first start and was strong through five innings before the Wreckers (7-6, 7-3), following a single and a walk with one out, got consecutive run-scoring hits from Andrew Moy, Chris Drbal and Ben Casparius.

Semmel was relieved by his brother Montana, who induced a grounder to third base, but the throw home was late and Staples got within two. He then retired five of the final six batters for the save.

“Hunter and Montana both threw strikes,” DePreta said. “Hunter was big today starting instead of closing. The pitching staff is key to the team.”

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Staples starter Ryan Fitton delivers a pitch. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

With schedules getting backed up because of prior rainouts, Mulvany knew it was just a matter of time before Hunter Semmel was going to need to make a start, and that came today.

“We were a little backed up pitching wise, we have some relievers that can throw and eat up innings, but Hunt has a little more command of his offspeed stuff and we thought he could work a little deeper into the game with a lower pitch count,” Mulvany said. “His pitch count got a little higher but he was still around the plate, he was still effective. We thought going to Hunt would give us the best chance to win.”

Casparius finished with three of Staples’ 11 hits. Kevin Rabacs and Drbal added two hits apiece, while Matt Stone drove in two runs.

Each team committed three errors.

The Wreckers were without one of their stars, Chad Knight, who was nursing a hamstring injury.

Westhill Bobby Zmarzlak dives back into first base. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

“We fell behind but you know what, we showed some character,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “Some kids who made mistakes came back. I like what I saw today. Obviously Westhill is good, but you don’t have to beat Westhill right now. You’ve got to beat them in single elimination, FCIACs and states. Today it was what it was, two good teams, they played a little better. They’re a measuring stick right now. They have some big kids, some older kids and we’re right there with them we think.”

The Vikings’ lone league loss was a 1-0 decision to Wilton. It may be just a matter of time between all the skill sets are simultaneously at a peak level.

“Still waiting for that to happen but we will take a win any way we can get it,” Mulvany said.”

Staples outfielder Kevin Rabacs dives for a ball. (Photo: Mark Conrad)