King of Diamonds: Darien claims second FCIAC baseball crown in three years
Darien is title town once again.
For the second time in three years, the Blue Wave baseball team is the FCIAC Champion.
“It’s pretty incredible. Not having one in 35 years and then getting two in three years. It says a lot about how far this program has come,” said Darien head coach Mike Scott. “I’m so proud of these guys.
Arthur Xanthos’ eighth inning bases-loaded RBI single lifted Darien past the Staples Wreckers 7-4 on Thursday night at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford.
“That was the cockiest walk to the plate I’ve ever had in my life,” said Xanthos, after Sean O’Malley was walked intentionally in front of him to load the bases. “I’m thinking I better come through with this hit,”
Xanthos received MVP honors as he had three hits, including the game-winner. He also had both RBI’s in the Blue Wave’s semi-final victory.
“That kid’s been waiting three years for a shot and he was named captain for a reason,” said Scott. “He’s a hard worker, a leader and to have him come through in that spot means everything. He deserves it.”
Staples got on the board in the first. With a runner at second and two-outs, Matt Stone hit a bloop single down the right field line off Darien starter Justin Van de Graaf to plate Drew Rodgers and put the Wreckers on top 1-0.
Darien tied the game in the fourth. With two on and one out, Max Popken came on in relief of Griffin Krauss. The first batter Popken faced, Harry Rayhill, singled to right to tie the game. The next batter, Van de Graaf dropped down a sacrifice safety-squeeze bunt to put the Blue Wave up 2-1.
Darien added another run in the inning on a RBI double to center field by Fin Batson, one of three doubles in the game for Batson. The Blue Wave took a 3-1 lead after four innings.
“It was nice to break out (offensively),” said Scott. “Better now when we needed it tonight than the first two games where we really didn’t.”
In the fifth, the Blue Wave tacked on. With runners at the corners and two outs, Rayhill singled to center field to plate pinch-runner Nick Briganti and give Darien a 4-1 lead.
Staples came back to score three times to tie the game in the bottom half of the fifth. The Wreckers got four hits in the inning and benefited from a Wave error. The big hits were an RBI double from Chad Knight and the game-tying single from Stone.
“This team has been through a lot. Been through a state championship run last year, had a great tournament here,” said Staples head coach Jack McFarland. “It’s just a matter of can you get the lead, can you get that one run.”
The Wreckers would have a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on first and third and two outs, Jackson Vaught would come out of the bullpen to relieve Van de Graaf. Chad Knight was intentionally walked to load the bases. Vaught was then able to get Drew Rogers to pop out to Rayhill at first base.
“That was so big (to get out of the jam),” said Xanthos. “I went out and said to him ‘pretend like it’s a bullpen at Darien High School.’”
The game would remain tied until Xanthos’ go-ahead hit in the eighth. O’Malley was intentionally walked with two men on setting the stage for Xanthos to come through. The Blue Wave tacked on after that as McLean followed up with a two-run single to give Darien some breathing room.
“They got the big hits and we didn’t. That’s baseball,” said McFarland.
Vaught set Staples down in order in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to a diving catch from Jordan in left-center field.
“We played great defense tonight,” said Scott. “It’s where we start. We’ve been playing great defense this tournament. We weren’t always good all year but in this tournament we played three great games of defense. That’s what it takes to win this thing.”
The final out came on a pop-up to Henry Williams on the edge of the grass left-center field.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Xanthos, on winning the title.
FCIAC Baseball Final - Darien 7, Staples 4 (8 innings)
Thursday, May 24, at Cubeta Stadium
Darien 0-0-0-3-1-0-0-3 7 runs, 14 hits, 0 errors
Staples 1-0-0-0-3-0-0-0 4 runs, 8 hits, 1 error
S – Krauss, Popken (4), Burns (5), Cheema and Stone
D – Van de Graaf, Vaught (W, 6) and Xanthos
Justin Van de Graaf - 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
Jackson Vaught - W, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Arthur Xanthos - 3-for-5, 1 run, 1 RBI - Game MVP
Fin Batson - 3-for-4, 2 2Bs, 1 RBI
Harry Rayhill - 2-for-4, 1 run, 2 RBIs
Justin Jordan - 1B, 3 BBs, 1 run
Chad Knight - 2B, 2 BBs, 1 run, 1 RBi
Max Popken - 2-for-3, 1 RBI
Drew Rogers - 1B, 2 runs, 1 RBI
Matt Stone - 2-for-4, 1 RBI