Artzt, McDonald help Ridgefield down Darien, 6-2

Entering a crucial late-season stretch of games against tough teams, it was inevitable that the Ridgefield High baseball team's pitching depth would be tested. On Thursday afternoon, the Tigers once again passed with flying colors.

Senior Jake Artzt was sharp, giving up one run over five and two-thirds innings to lead Ridgefield to a 6-2 victory over FCIAC-leading Darien. How good has Artzt been this season? Despite the stellar outing, Ridgefield’s number-two starter actually saw his ERA rise from 0.38 to 0.55.

“Artzt pitched great,” said Ridgefield head coach Paul Fabbri, whose team improved to 11-3 with its fifth straight win. “Someone mentioned to me that he threw 24 innings before he gave up a run — that’s pretty amazing for a high school pitcher. He started to run out of gas in the sixth but he kept fighting and stuck it out there.”

Freshman Luke Barrientos relieved Artzt and was effective, allowing one run while getting the last four outs for the Tigers. Barrientos worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning  to close out the win.

At the plate, Quinn McDonald collected four RBIs for Ridgefield. McDonald combined with the top of the order — Alex Price, Matt Stamatis and Pete Columbia — to keep pressure on Darien pitchers, chasing starter Jackson Vaught out of the game after three innings.

Ridgefield took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After a groundout from Price, Stamatis singled to right field. Columbia followed with a ground ball that was bobbled by shortstop Henry Williams, putting two runners on base. McDonald then drove a two-run double to left field, and Nick Hanna singled to center field to score McDonald.

Artzt kept Darien hitless for the next three innings, retiring the side in order in the second and third innings.

In the bottom of the third, Ridgefield doubled its lead. After a leadoff walk by Stamatis and a double by Columbia, McDonald came through again with a two-run single to left field. Following a walk to Hanna and a groundout by Nick Cullinan, McDonald scored on Ben Cohen's RBI groundout.

Darien (12-3 overall) scored its first run in the top of the fifth inning on a single to right field. Barrientos relieved Artzt and got a pop-up to leave two runners stranded in scoring position.

Aided by an error, Darien added its second run in the bottom of the seventh. But with the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate, Barrientos displayed grit by inducing a groundout to Stamatis at shortstop to end the game.

“For Barrientos to show that poise in the last inning is pretty special, and I’m glad that we have him for the next three years,” said Ridgefield head coach Paul Fabbri.

“[Darien] is a pretty good baseball team; they’re in the top five in the state for a reason,” added Fabbri. “They were taxed, like we were, with their pitching and put out a kid who hadn’t made a varsity start yet. We did our job chasing their starter out early and Jake made it stick, throwing strikes.”