Wilton edges Ridgefield, 2-1, in FCIAC title game
An unearned run and Billy Black's pitching were too much for the Ridgefield High baseball team to overcome.
Black, a senior left-hander, hurled a three-hitter as second-seed Wilton defeated fourth-seed Ridgefield, 2-1, in the FCIAC championship game on Friday evening at the Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
Wilton needed Black’s gem on Friday night, as Ridgefield starter Collin Lowe was equally dominant. Lowe, a senior right-hander, allowed seven hits, walked one batter and struck out 10 in a complete-game effort.
The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Pete Columbia walked, went to third on consecutive groundouts, and scored on a wild pitch.
Wilton answered with a run in the bottom of the second. Jack Dooley led off with a double down the left-field line, moved to third on Kyle Phillips’ sacrifice bunt, and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1-1. Columbia, Ridgefield's first baseman, made a nice catch over the railing in foul territory for the third out.
Dan Ignatowich led off the third with a line single to right for Ridgefield, stole second and went to third on a passed ball with two outs. But Black retired the next batter to keep the Tigers from scoring.
Wilton threatened in the bottom of the third when Henry Strmecki reached on a bad-hop single and Collin Kahal blooped a single into right-center field, putting runners on the corners with no outs. But with Kahal running, Dillon Lifieri hit a hard liner to third baseman Matt Stamatis, who made the catch and threw over to Columbia to double off Kahal at first. Lowe then escaped with a strikeout for the third out.
Wilton got the winning run in the bottom of the fifth. Jack DiNanno led off by driving an 0-2 pitch to the centerfield wall for a double. Strmecki then hit a chopper that took a big bounce into the hole on the left side, with Stamatis making a great play to pull the ball down. But his throw to first was wide for an error that moved the runners to second and third. Kahal then hit a slow roller to the right of the mound for a groundout, allowing pinch runner Otto Stenzler to score the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the sixth, Wilton's Matt D’Elisa singled up the middle, stole second and moved to third with no outs on a wild pitch. But Lowe came back with consecutive strikeouts and then got a groundout to keep it a one-run game.
In the top of the seventh, Columbia hit a one-out double — ending a streak of 13 straight outs for Black — to put the tying run on second. He moved to third on John Thrasher's groundout, but Black got Lowe swinging for the final out.
For the Tigers (17-6), it was a tough loss to swallow.
“The two doubles were the difference in the game. Putting the lead-off guy on second base forces the defense to make plays," said Ridgefield head coach Paul Fabbri. "And the plays we had been making the previous games we just didn’t today.
"I thought rather than them winning today, we lost," continued Fabbri. "If we make the plays ... then we’re celebrating a 1-0 victory rather than a 2-1 loss. It’s tough to win a game with three hits. That’s what number three (Black) does to you. And our inability to make those plays was the difference in the ballgame.”
Notes: Black, who will have season-ending elbow surgery this week, retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced.
Colin Motill, Ignatowich and Columbia accounted for Ridgefield's three hits.
Ridgefield (17-6 overall) will now compete in the Class LL state tournament, which starts next week.
Press Sports Reporter Chris Sacchi and Wilton Bulletin Sports Editor JB Cozens contributed to this story.