Ridgefield baseball team knocks off Staples

By beating Wilton just more than a week ago, the Ridgefield High baseball team avenged one of its postseason losses from last year.

On Monday afternoon, the Tigers got more redemption.

Behind another superb effort from sophomore pitcher Matt DeLuca, Ridgefield edged Staples, 3-2, at Ciuccoli Field. Staples beat the Tigers in last season’s Class LL state semifinals.

After throwing a no-hitter in his previous start against New Milford, DeLuca limited Staples to two runs through six-plus innings. Senior Jake Artzt got the final three outs — but not without some drama — in the top of the seventh.

Ridgefield improved to 13-3 overall and 10-2 in the FCIAC with its seventh straight win. In the process, the Tigers surpassed Staples for the best record in the conference and the inside track for the top overall seed in the fast-approaching playoffs.

Ridgefield took a 1-0 lead off Staples starter Harry Azadian with an unearned run in the bottom of the second inning. Nick Hanna singled and scored when Ben Cohen’s fly ball was dropped in the outfield.

Staples then tied the game in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Zack Zobel.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Matt Restivo came through with a clutch two-out single to score Cole Blackwell and put Ridgefield ahead 2-1 lead. And in the bottom of the sixth, Joey Pastore delivered a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Quinn McDonald and extend the Tigers’ lead to 3-1.

McDonald increased his hitting streak to six games and has recorded multiple hits in four of those contests. After a slow start to the season, McDonald has been on fire of late and is now batting .366 with an on-base percentage of .490.

“When everyone else around me is doing well with lots of energy, it's tough not to reciprocate that same intensity,” said McDonald. “Batting in the clean-up spot has quite the expectations, especially from coach [Paul] Fabbri, so I've just been trying to do everything I can to help the team win day in and day out.”

As for DeLuca, the sophomore has been sensational this year. Ridgefield is now 4-0 in games that Deluca pitches, and he has an 0.95 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 22 innings. His start against Staples was easily the biggest appearance of his young career and he delivered a phenomenal performance.

“DeLuca was amazing … to do what he did following up his game against New Milford,” said Fabbri.

Following DeLuca was Artzt, who has been among the most reliable pitchers in the FCIAC this year. Although he allowed two hits and an inherited runner to score in the top of the seventh, Artzt struck out two batters and got the save, lowering his ERA to 0.53. Opponents are hitting .125 against him.

The Tigers got the victory despite playing without starting first baseman Nick Cullinan (concussion). Cullinan has been integral to the offense, batting in the heart of the Ridgefield lineup while providing a defensive presence at first base. Junior Sean Livingstone started in place of Cullinan.

“When we heard Nick was out we knew we had to step it up, especially against a team like Staples,” said senior Hanna. “Sean played well at first base and we had production from all parts in the lineup. It felt good to win for Nick today and we're hoping he's back soon.” “Staples has ended our season in states a couple of years, so any time you play Staples, with the kind of personnel they have, it’s going to be a big game,” said Fabbri. “There’s always something extra when you play Staples.”