No. 14 Darien shocks No. 3 Staples in FCIAC baseball playoffs

Darien's Jake Horowitz (10) throws a pitch during the Wave's baseball game against Staples in Westport on Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Darien's Jake Horowitz (10) throws a pitch during the Wave's baseball game against Staples in Westport on Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Dave Stewart / Hearst Connecticut Media

As Darien baseball coach Mike Scott puts it, the Blue Wave had “seen this movie before.”

Holding a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning at Staples, Darien was in a jam, as the Wreckers loaded the bases with no outs.

This time, however, the movie had a different ending.

Reliever Karson Drake ended the drama with a double play and a strikeout as the 14th-seeded Blue Wave upset No. 3 seed Staples 8-6 in the opening round of the FCIAC tournament Friday in Westport.

The Wreckers (13-5), ranked No. 8 in the GameTimeCT poll, had fired two no-hitters at Darien during the regular season, but allowed 11 hits in the playoff loss.

Scott said the Wave played “loose” and had little pressure after its struggles this spring.

“There was the energy and also we’re a team that has nothing to lose,” Scott said. “We had four wins all season, so nobody expected us to go into Staples and beat the three seed and the machine that Staples is. But the boys had the belief that they could do the job.”

Darien will attempt to keep the upset momentum going when it plays at No. 6 Westhill in the FCIAC quarterfinals at 4 p.m., Monday. Every game could be the last for the Wave, which did not qualify for the state playoffs.

Prior to its game against Staples, the message was “it’s a new season,” according to Scott.

“None of the stuff that happened during the regular season matters,” he said. “Throw that out the window and go play ball. We’re better than our record shows and that’s been our belief the whole way through.”

Jake Horowitz led the Wave, going 3-for-5 with an RBI, and pitching the first six innings. He also led off the game with a single - Darien’s first hit in 15 innings against the Wreckers.

With the score tied 4-4, the first five Darien batters reached base in the top of the eighth.

Ryan Yusko led off with a walk, John Fiorita singled, and Horowitz and Andrew Briganti followed with RBI base hits.

After Briganti stole second, Frank Drugge lined a single to right for two more runs and an 8-4 lead.

Staples started the home half of the eighth with a single by JW Fitzgerald and an RBI double by Justin Lessing. Alex Oppenheimer walked and Darien called in Drake, who gave up an infield single to Brennan Herold, loading the bases with no outs.

Drake got Cameron Manna to ground to third, where Max Racanelli stepped on the base and threw to first for a double play. Drake then ended the game with a strikeout.

“(Drake is) our guy and we were going to ride him in that situation and sure enough, he got a ground ball to third base” Scott said. “Max knew what to do and that’s as big of a play as you can get. The whole place was expecting that big hit to get them right back in it, and then we got that huge play.”

For the Wave, it was a winning moment in a season which has had many heartbreaking losses.

“It’s great to see it go our way once this year,” Scott said. “It was no better time than this time of year when you’re fighting for your lives every game.”

No. 14 DARIEN 8, No. 3 STAPLES 6 (8 innings)

Darien 012 010 04 - 8 11 4

Staples 120 001 02 - 6 8 2

Batteries: Darien: Jake Horowitz, Billy Batson (W, 6), Karson Drake (S, 7) and Ryan Yusko; Staples: Alex Oppenheimer, Justin Lessing (3), Carter Kelsey (4), Matthew Spada (L, 4), Chris Zajac (8), Adam Bauks (8) and Justin Rothenberg; Highlights: Darien: Horowitz 3-for-5, 1 run, 1 RBI; Drake HR; Andrew Briganti 2-for-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI; Frank Drugge 1-for-3, 2 walks, 1 run, 2 RBIs; Staples: Lessing 4-for-5, 2 doubles, 2 runs, 3 RBIs; JW Fitzgerald 2-for-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI; Brennan Herold 3-for-5, 1 RBI.

Records: Darien 5-13, Staples 13-5.