Darien baseball earns Fairfield County Sports Persons of the Year award

Players of the Darien baseball team root for a teammate at the plate during the FCIAC championship game in May at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford. — Dave Stewart photo

For 35 years, the Darien baseball team went without an FCIAC baseball championship. Following the Wave’s league title in the spring, they’ve now been crowned league champs twice in the past three years.

That remarkable achievement has made head coach Mike Scott’s Blue Wave baseball team the choice for the Fairfield County Sports Commission’s 2018 Sports Persons of the Year for Darien.

The team will be honored alongside the rest the of the commission’s Sports Persons of the Year from 15 communities during the 14th annual Sports Night awards dinner on Monday, Oct. 15, at the Stamford Marriott beginning at 6 p.m.

Given the Wave’s performance in the FCIAC tournament, it’s hard to remember that Darien actually began the season with a loss and lost four of its last six games heading into the postseason.

After falling to Fitch 4-2 on opening day, the Wave caught fire with an eight-game winning streak, knocking off traditional FCIAC powers such as Greenwich, Trumbull and Brien McMahon along the way.

When the streak eventually ended, Darien went on another run of four more victories, including decisions against playoff-bound teams Wilton and Ludlowe.

Despite some late struggles, the Wave finished the regular season with a 14-6 record, and then knocked off Trumbull 1-0 behind a brilliant complete-game shutout by Henry Williams. Trumbull’s Ben Fero actually threw a no-hitter, but Darien took advantage of walks and an error to score the game’s only run.

Another spectacular pitching performance followed, as Justin Jordan fired a one-hit shutout at Ludlowe in the semifinals, as Darien won, 2-0.

In the title game at Stamford’s Cubeta Stadium, Darien and Staples were tied 4-4 and went to extra innings. In the top of the eighth, the Wreckers issued an intentional walk to Wave slugger Sean O’Malley, loading the bases for Arthur Xanthos.

Xanthos made Staples pay as he laced an RBI single to put Darien in front for good. Mac McLean followed with a two-run single, and the Wave went on to win, 7-4.

Darien received yet another impressive pitching performance, as Justin Van de Graaf started and Jackson Vaught relieved.

“We’re seniors now, so there’s nothing like it,” O’Malley said after the championship. “Going into the season, we didn’t really know what we had here. We had a lot of pitching and defense and it came through for us. This one is the sweetest because it’s the last hurrah.”

Jordan gave credit to the senior leaders from the 2016 team, which defeated Trumbull for the FCIAC title, for helping to move the program forward.

“The leadership for me and him (O’Malley) — he’s been my day one guy — is what the seniors showed us as sophomores. We were able to bring it here this season and tonight. I’m speechless about this.”

Sports Persons of the Year were selected by committees headed by a local representative of the commission.

The winners were deemed to have had the most positive impact in their sports communities from August, 2017 to August, 2018.

Other area Sports Persons of the Year for 2018 include Brien McMahon’s Joe Maddafari, the National High School Athletic Director of the Year; New Canaan’s Harry Stanton, who led the Wesleyan Cardinals to the 2018 NCAA Div. III men’s lacrosse championship; and Stamford’s Andrew O’Connor, a star volleyball and basketball player for the Black Knights.