Murph's Turf: Best-of awards for RHS spring sports

The Press’s Best-Of Awards for Ridgefield High School’s 2017 spring sports season:

Pairing: It might have seemed unlikely: A senior and a freshman, who were the team’s top-two singles players during the regular season, combining to play doubles and win a state championship. Yet that’s precisely what Andrew Mercorella (the senior) and Brian Song (the freshman) did. Seeded third, the two Ridgefield High players put on a dominating display to win the Class LL state doubles title. Song and Mercorella won all five of their matches in straight sets, including a 6-1, 6-0 rout of the fourth-seeded Staples team in the finals.

Quartet: Over the years, the Ridgefield High girls outdoor track team has become known for its success in the 4x800-meter relay. And while the Tigers weren’t too shabby in that event this season — finishing first at the conference championships and second in Class LL — it was another relay that grabbed the headlines. Ridgefield’s 4x400-meter crew of junior Anna Landler, freshman Emma Langis and seniors Katie Jasminski and Alexandra Damron placed first at four consecutive post-season meets (FCIAC, Class LL, State Open, New England regionals), breaking and then resetting school records along the way. The four runners ended their year with a 14th-place finish at the New Balance nationals and now have the five fastest 4x400 times in program history.

Performance: Going into the Ridgefield boys golf team’s season, senior Connor Looney knew that the lowest nine-hole score in program history was a 33. Now, it’s not. Looney took the mark down a stroke by shooting a three-under par 32 in the Tigers’ victory over Fairfield Prep at Silver Spring Country Club. Looney birdied the first three holes and then parred the next six to get his name into the record books. The run of pars included a recovery on the eighth hole, as Looney used a deft chip shot to overcome an errant tee shot and position himself for a short par putt.

Game: With its 14-11 victory over New Canaan in the FCIAC semifinals, the Ridgefield High girls lacrosse team checked off two program-firsts: A win over perennial power New Canaan and a berth in the conference finals. Getting goals from five different players, the Tigers took a quick 5-0 lead. But when the Rams closed within 10-8 at halftime and then scored the first goal of the second half, a New Canaan comeback triumph seemed inevitable. But two goals from Caeleigh Tannian and one from Caroline Curnal cooled off the Rams and pushed Ridgefield’s lead to 13-9. The Tigers then took advantage of two New Canaan penalties to maintain possession and secure the history-making victory.

Comeback: After winning 12 of its first 13 games, the Ridgefield High baseball team dropped four straight. And when Norwalk scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning to go ahead 4-1 on a Friday afternoon at Ciuccoli Field, the Tigers were three outs away from a fifth consecutive setback. Ridgefield’s response in the bottom of the inning began with one out, when Matt Colin was hit by a pitch. John Thrasher doubled to put runners on second and third, and Jake Artzt delivered a two-run single to get the Tigers within 4-3. Following a groundout, Colin Motill doubled to left field tie the score. Matt Stamatis then came through with a single to center that scored Motill with the go-ahead run. Norwalk got the tying run to second base with two outs in the top of the seventh before reliever Alex Price struck out the next batter to end both the game and Ridgefield’s four-game slide.

Female newcomer: Going into the 2017 season, the major concern for head coach Cece Berger and the Ridgefield girls lacrosse team was replacing All-FCIAC and All-State goalie Maddie Burns, who had graduated and taken her talents to West Point to play for Army. The answer was a pint-sized freshman: Lexi Held. In her first season, Held was sensational, using a mix of athleticism, reflexes and positioning to frustrate opponents. Her signature performance came in Ridgefield’s 15-14 double-overtime win over Greenwich in the FCIAC quarterfinals, as Held made 13 saves, including three stops on shots from point-blank range in the first overtime.

Male newcomer: During the pre-season, Ridgefield boys lacrosse coach Roy Colsey mentioned that sophomore midfielder Weston Carpenter was among the team’s most improved players. It didn’t take long for Carpenter to back up that claim. In Ridgefield’s season-opening, 8-7 overtime loss to Greenwich, Carpenter scored a team-best five goals, including the equalizer with 7.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Carpenter kept scoring the rest of the season, with another five-goal performance in an FCIAC quarterfinal win over Staples among the highlights.

Female athlete: Whether she was pitching or hitting, Kailey Westington excelled for this spring’s Ridgefield High softball team. Westington, a righthander who will play college softball at Southern Connecticut State University, led the Tigers to a 14-9 record that included berths in the FCIAC and state tournaments. She held opponents to three or fewer runs in 17 of Ridgefield’s 23 games, including a five-hit, 10-strikeout shutout of New Milford in the state tournament.

Male athlete: Junior lefthander Alex Price put together one of the most dominating seasons ever for a Ridgefield High pitcher. Price won his first eight decisions and added three saves before suffering the loss in Ridgefield’s 7-3 season-ending setback against Staples in the Class LL state semifinals. He finished the year with an 8-1 record and a 1.82 ERA, allowing 52 hits in 65.1 innings while walking 22 batters and striking out 72. Opponents batted a measly .206 against Price this spring.

Team: Although there are several worthy contenders — four Ridgefield squads played in conference title contests and one (boys volleyball) also reached the state finals — the RHS baseball team gets the nod. Led by the one-two pitching punch of Price and senior Collin Lowe, the Tigers advanced to the FCIAC championship game for just the fourth time in program history before losing to Wilton, 2-1. Ridgefield rebounded to win three straight state tournament games before falling to eventual champion Staples in the Class LL semifinals and ending the year with a 20-7 record.