Staples stops Darien baseball in battle for first place

Five games in five days clearly took a toll on the Darien baseball team, but the Blue Wave still came out with a winning record and a spot near the top of the FCIAC standings.

Pitchers Chad Knight and Alex Cheema held Darien to one unearned run on one hit as the Staples Wreckers scored a 7-1 win over the Wave in a battle for first place in the FCIAC Friday in Westport.

The loss was the Wave’s second straight — they fell in Ridgefield 6-2 on Thursday — but they finished a grueling week with three wins in five games and records of 12-4 overall and 9-3 in the FCIAC. Darien is in third place in the conference standings, trailing Staples (10-2 FCIAC) and Ridgefield (9-2), with four games remaining.

The Blue Wave hosts rival New Canaan at 4 p.m., Monday, and then plays at Westhill (May 11), and home against St. Joseph (May 14) and Norwalk (May 16) to close the season.

The Wave never got rolling on Friday, as Staples put up three spots in both the second and third innings to take command.

Darien’s only hit was a one-out single to right by Devyn Kipphut in the top of the fourth. Knight struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Knight pitched the first four innings, allowing no runs on the one single, walking one and striking out seven. Cheema pitched the final three innings and allowed one unearned run while striking out two.

With one out in the second, Harry Azadian and Adam Petro both singled, and Kevin Rabacs followed with an RBI base hit. After an infield single by Zack Zobel loaded the bases, Chris Drbal hit a sacrifice fly, and Knight doubled in a run for a 3-0 lead.

Staples struck again in the third as Drew Rogers tripled, Matt Stone was beaned, and Popken belted a three-run homer to left to make it 6-0.

The Wreckers tacked on one run in the fifth when Popken doubles and Petro drove him in with a single.

Darien scored its lone run in the top of the seventh, after Nick Briganti reached on an error, ending up on second base with no outs. He advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on another grounderout by Brendan Ross. Cheema then got the last out on a strikeout.

Ridgefield 6, Darien 2

It was a similar situation in Darien’s 6-2 loss to the Tigers in Ridgefield on Thursday, as Ridgefield plated three runs in the first and three in the second to put the Wave in an early hole.

The top part of the Wave’s lineup did pressure the Ridgefield defense, going a combined 7-for-14 with a pair of walks. But the Tigers’ pitchers Jake Artzt and Luke Barrientos shut down the rest of the Darien lineup, which went 0-13.

Henry Williams had Darien’s best day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored, while leadoff hitter Justin Jordan was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Sean O’Malley singled, walked twice and drove in a run, and Harry Rayhill had a single and an RBI.

Jackson Vaught started on the mound and took the loss, allowing six runs, five earned on six hits in three innings.

The Wave received a strong effort from reliever Devyn Kipphut, who pitched three scoreless frames and allowed one hit. He walked three and struck out two.

Quinn McDonald got things started for Ridgefield, ripping a two-run double in the first inning. He finished the day with two hits, a stolen base, two runs scored and four RBIs.