Scenes from NC Baseball at Darien on April 15, 2016. Credit: Flo Jones
It started out as an opportunity for New Canaan Baseball to hand its rival, the Darien Blue Wave, its first loss of the season.
But behind a complete-game shutout from starting pitcher Andrew Winsch, and back-to-back homers from shortstop Richard Brereton and first baseman Casey Brown in the sixth inning, Darien (6-0, 3-0 FCIAC) was able to put the Rams (2-4, 1-2 FCIAC) away quietly, 8-0, and claim bragging rights for the rivalry in 2016.
“I think Darien came out and did a great job,” Rams Head Coach Mitch Hoffman told NewCanaanite.com. “He [Winsch] pitched well. We did not swing the bats like we were supposed to but it was a good, hard fought game until the end when it just got away from us.”
Coming off a win on Wednesday afternoon over Brien McMahon, New Canaan got an early baserunner when Robby Jones laced a single to right field, and stole second during the next at-bat. But the Rams could not capitalize on the runner in scoring position as Winsch got out of the inning unscathed.
Jones took the mound for New Canaan in the bottom half and matched his southpaw counterpart’s zero when after walking Darien’s leadoff batter, he set down the next three in order. The two matched zeroes again in the second, including Jones striking out the side. Then Winsch continued his part of the pitcher’s duel with a scoreless third frame.
Back on the bump for the bottom of the third, Jones retired Darien’s leadoff batter but then gave up his first hit of the game when Brereton sent the ball to right field, over New Canaan’s Michael Svagdis’ head, and up against the wall. Svagdis moved to the ball quickly but it was not a match to Brereton’s speed as he motored on to third for a one-out triple.
Brown stepped up to the plate next and ripped a grounder to third that zipped past the diving Troy Dunnam and on into left field for an RBI single, plating Brereton for the Wave’s first run of the game. That was followed by Darien’s designated hitter, Peter Marren, hitting a sharp groundball to short that got a hometown hop off the turf field surface and bounced over the glove of Rams shortstop, Pat Diamond, into left field. Then to mount the degree of difficulty of the inning, Jones hit the next batter with a pitch that sailed on him to load the bases — still with only one out.
After Coach Hoffman came out to talk to his pitcher, Jones minimized the damage to just one more run allowed by retiring Darien left fielder Tyler Grant on a sacrifice fly to center, and striking out second baseman Matt Drake, looking.
But after getting just their third baserunner of the game on a one-out walk drawn by Pelli, Winsch kept the Rams scoreless for a fourth consecutive inning by retiring the next two.
Jones came back out to the hill to start the fourth, but after setting down the leadoff batter, he surrendered a double to Darien centerfielder Cord Fox. With his pitch count elevated, and it being just the sixth game of the season, Hoffman went to his bullpen and summoned Dunnam.
The right-hander got his first batter out on a fly ball to center, leaving one more out to get to keep the deficit at two. However, Brereton struck again by delivering an RBI single to right to increase the Blue Wave lead to 3-0 — closing the book on Jones’ afternoon (3 1/3 IP; 3 R (2 ER); 3 H; 5 K; 2 BB; 1 HBP).
The three-run cushion helped Winsch breeze right through the fifth. Then Dunnam countered with a zero of his own with a fairly comfortable bottom frame. With just two more at-bats left, and the top of the order due up for the Rams, New Canaan went to the plate in the sixth, desperately hoping to mount a comeback effort. But Winsch proved to be just too much to handle, retiring the side in order.
And any hope for a final inning rally from New Canaan was all but shut down when in the bottom of the sixth Darien plated five runs, four of them coming on back-to-back home-runs — a three-run shot from Brereton to left and a solo shot from Brown to right — to stretch the Blue Wave lead to 8-0.
“They didn’t hit Robby. And they really didn’t hit Troy,” said Hoffman when asked about the work of his pitchers. “What we did was we gave them a few outs, and to Darien’s credit, what they did do is they upped the pitch count for both guys. I’m not going to keep a kid in too long for any other reason. Robby was on a count; I got him out because I got a long season. And we tried to give it to our pen and it just didn’t work out.”
Winsch finished the complete-game shutout effort (7 IP; O R; 2 H; 7 K; 2 BB) with a one-two-three seventh, but after the game, the Blue Wave southpaw was not one to take any of the credit for the team’s win against their longtime rival.
“It felt really good to be out there [in such a game]. And, honestly, I think our offense was the biggest thing [we had going for us] today with Richard Brereton and Casey Brown having their home-runs, and then Matt Drake having that 12-pitch at-bat in the second and drawing that walk and elevating the pitch count. I think that was the biggest thing today.”
The Rams will look to bounce back when they next take the field, which will be on Monday, April 18, for a 4 p.m. game at Trinity Catholic.