Bounce back: Ridgefield romps in state opener

In the homestretch of the 2018 season, the Ridgefield High baseball team rattled off 10 consecutive victories, allowing only 14 runs during the winning streak.

With a deep pitching staff and the conference’s best record, expectations were high going into the FCIAC playoffs. But after ending the regular season with a Senior Night loss to Fairfield Warde, the top-seeded Tigers were stunned by eighth-seed Fairfield Ludlowe, 18-3, in the conference quarterfinals.

There was no similar upset in the opening round of the state tournament.

Ridgefield got back to its winning ways, with the offense coming alive in a 12-2 home rout of 30th-seed Hartford Public on Tuesday afternoon at Governor’s Park.

The Tigers (17-5) will now host 14th-seed Hamden in a second-round game tomorrow (May 30) at 3:30. Hamden defeated 19th-seed Conard, 15-4, in another first-round game Tuesday.

“We won 10 games in a row, playing great baseball, and then we hit the skids, losing two straight games,” said Ridgefield head coach Paul Fabbri. “To come out here and feel better about ourselves is great. It is the state tournament, so the seniors know this could be it every time that they come out.”

Senior Jake Artzt was effective over five innings, allowing two runs while striking out six Hartford Public batters. Artzt received plenty of support early, with Ridgefield scoring 10 runs in the first two innings. Freshman Luke Barrientos (sixth) and senior Michael Heller (seventh) each pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the Tigers.

“One of the real bonuses of having the pitching staff that we have, we can throw a guy like Jake, who had such a fantastic year, in this game and know we’re going to get a great effort, and that’s what he gave us,” said Fabbri.

After a leadoff single by Price in the bottom of the first inning, senior shortstop Matt Stamatis followed with an RBI triple for the first run of the game. Pete Columbia and Quinn McDonald drew walks to load the bases before Nick Hanna drove in two runs with a single. Two batters later, Nick Cullinan singled home Hanna to push Ridgefield’s lead to 4-0.

Artzt encountered his only trouble in the top of the second inning, allowing three hits in quick succession as Hartford Public scored two runs. Artzt struck out the next two batters and induced a groundout to keep the Tigers ahead, 4-2.

The lead quickly swelled in the bottom of the second. Singles by Ben Cohen, Stamatis, Hanna, and Artzt and a double from McDonald were part of a six run-outburst as the Tigers went ahead, 10-2.

In the bottom of the third inning, a leadoff double by Price was followed by an RBI single from Stamatis, who later scored on an error to make it 12-2. Many of the Ridgefield starters got the rest of the day off.

“There was definitely a chip on our shoulder,” said Columbia. “We had to come out here and deliver. We were on a two-game losing streak, which really never happened to us before, so we really came out focused in practice and we were ready to bring it to them today.”

One late highlight came from senior Ty Fujitani, who sent a fly ball that nearly cleared the wall in left field.

“Coach put me in, and I really have one job on this team— to go yard,” said Fujitani. “That’s all I tried to do here today and I came a little bit short, but I’m satisfied with the result at the end of the day.”