Darien baseball advances to semis as Williams wins despite Fero's no-hitter
The Darien Blue Wave was no-hit on Monday. And they’ve advanced to the FCIAC baseball semifinals.
While those two statements may seem unlikely partners, they’re very real after Trumbull’s Ben Fero and Darien’s Henry Williams locked up a masterful pitching duel and the the Wave came away with a 1-0 victory in the FCIAC quarterfinals at DHS.
Fero allowed no hits over six innings, but a pair of errors in the bottom of the sixth inning led to an unearned run, which is all Williams needed as he fired a one-hit shutout for the Wave.
“Ben Fero was awesome today,” Williams said. “That’s a good D1 arm and he did a great job today. We kind of stuck to what our narrative’s been all year. It’s been pitching, defense, and capitalizing on their mistakes and they made one or two in that last inning. We’re fortunate to be on top.”
“Outstanding,” Trumbull head coach Phil Pacelli said of Fero’s performance. “He left it all on the mound today. That was the best game I’ve seen him pitch in the last three years. We left it all on the field today. I’m really proud of them. I feel like it could’ve gone either way and we still should be playing.”
Williams was one hit away from a no-hitter as well. He allowed a single to Kevin Bruggeman with one out in the top of the first and was untouchable the rest of the way. He retired the next 11 batters after the hit, allowed just one other base runner on a hit batter, and finished the game with a pair of 1-2-3 innings. Williams did not walk a batter, fanned 10, and threw just 81 pitches.
“I was pretty efficient each inning,” Williams said. “The defense was great today and the shortstop Vandy (Justin Van de Graaf) made a great play. When your defense goes out and makes every single play for you… regardless of who’s up, you can make your pitch and trust your defense to get it done.”
“You don’t win tournament games with no one on the mound,” Darien head coach Mike Scott said. “We’re lucky because we have those two (Williams and Justin Jordan) and we have other guys who can do the job behind them. We need those good starts from those two in order to advance and I couldn’t ask for anything more than what we got our of Henry today.”
Darien, the No. 4 seed, will take on No. 8 Ludlowe in the FCIAC semifinals at 5 p.m., Tuesday, at Stamford’s Cubeta Stadium. Ludlowe upset top-seeded Ridgefield 18-3 in the quarterfinals
Fero was unreal through the first five innings, retiring the first 15 Darien hitters without allowing a ball hit out of the infield until the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, however, the Wave’s Harry Rayhill reached on an error leading off as shortstop Chris Brown couldn’t handle a tough chopper to the middle. Nick Briganti came in to pinch run, and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Van de Graaf.
After a flyout, Jordan worked the count to 3-2 and checked his swing on a pitch in the dirt, as Briganti raced to third. The umps called the pitch a ball and awarded Jordan first base — a controversial call which extended the inning for Darien.
Williams then hit a ground ball to short, and Brown slipped on the turf as the ball glanced off his glove, allowing Briganti to score.
“It’s part of the home field advantage,” Pacelli said. “They’ve been playing on turf the whole season here and this is our third game on turf. He slipped up a little on that play with his footing.”
In the next inning, Williams retired the Eagles in order, striking out the last two batters for the win.
Close ball games are something the Wave has become pretty adept at this season, as they’ve been in 11 games decided by two or fewer runs, including eight one-run contests.
“We’ve been in these kind of games all year where it’s been a one-run ball game, and one play either way could sway the game,” Scott said. “It certainly game to fruition today. In tournament baseball, it’s one run, one play that can you win the ball game. It was that one play that we caught the break on and we took advantage of their mistakes.”
“We’ve said it all year that in close ballgames, our pitching staff and our defense is going to win it,” Williams said. “This wasn’t a slugfest, this is exactly what we’ve prepared for all year. Being in those close games all year helps you relax a little bit and this is just another game.”