WILTON — For a week, Alex Price’s smile belied the anguish that afflicts perfectionists. While Price was focused on the present at school and during games, the ace of Ridgefield’s pitching staff admitted he kept rewinding his mental streaming system to last Monday against Brien McMahon.
Price gave up five runs in three innings of a 9-3 loss. Just one was earned in what would become the Tigers’ second straight defeat after a 6-1 start.
“The whole week I was pretty pissed off, a little bit at the way I pitched and the team and a little bit at everyone,” Price said. “I’m still out there and my mind is off it a little bit but in the back of my mind I’m still thinking about it. When today came around I was super excited. It felt good to let everything out today.”
Price responded with a complete-game four-hitter, striking out five in a 4-1 win over Wilton, which had won six straight and eight of its previous nine games.
“He was victimized by the defense against McMahon and gave up five when he should have given up just one,” Ridgefield coach Paul Fabbri said. “I thought today he should have given up none. They are pretty good at the top of the lineup the way they swing the bats. We feel when we put him on the mound we have a pretty good chance to win.”
Price improved to 4-1. He set the tone by retiring the first seven batters and worked out of a jam in the sixth inning. There will be no lingering bad memories this week off what has become a typical performance.
“Baseball is about pitching, and when you have this guy it makes it real easy,” Fabbri said.
Price added two hits, the same total of production from Quinn McDonald and Ben Cohen, the seventh and eighth hitters in the order. Each drove in a run and McDonald scored twice.
“We did a good job today with the sticks and we got it from the bottom of the lineup with Ben and Quinn,” Fabbri said. “We did enough today.”
Wilton’s lone run came on Jack DiNanno’s third-inning single. DiNanno was in the middle of the sixth-inning rally. He reached on a fielder’s choice after Dillon Lifrieri’s leadoff single. Lifrieri ended up at third following an error on the play.
Ryan Gabriele came up and hit a bullet, perfect in every way except it went right to first baseman Nick Cullinan, who was able to beat DiNanno back to the bag for a double play. Price got a strikeout to end the inning and retired the side in order in the seventh.
“I felt that was the one that shifted the game,” Price said. “Coming out I said to the team with the top of the order we need to put up a zero here and when they got first and third I got a little nervous, but when we got that out I knew it would be smooth sailing from there.”
Ridgefield (9-3, 7-2 FCIAC), 11th in the state poll released today (Wilton is 7th), scored twice in the second and fourth innings against Wilton starter Brendan Skewis and rode Price from there.
“I’m disappointed in my team because we were a little flat today and I don’t know why,” Wilton coach Tim Eagen said. “You are 9-2 and you are 9-2 for a reason. To beat a team like that you have to play a perfect game, or a perfect game to beat Price. We were putting balls in play but we were taking defensive swings. Skewis pitched OK but we didn’t hit enough in clutch situations.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s FCIAC final, won by the Warriors, but that was low on the list of storylines.
“I think with this week, it wouldn’t be revenge,” Fabbri said. “They have the trophy and a banner and we don’t. It’s a regular-season win. It’s just nice to get a win.”
Today kicked off a stretch where the Tigers play five straight contenders, with New Milford, a strong non-league opponent, part of a four-game week. The Warriors also have an extra game on the schedule this week and like Ridgefield face league leader Darien — tomorrow.
“They have a big week, we have a big week,” Eagen said. “This league is not going to come down to Price or my kid, but everyone else’s second and third pitcher that are going to have to do it as we come down to the wire.”