Warde baseball falls to Ridgefield, misses tournament berth
Updated 9:22 pm, Wednesday, May 17, 2017
FAIRFIELD — After losing the first six games of the season, including being no-hit in two of them, if you had told Warde coach Brett Conner that on the last day of the season, his Mustangs would have a chance to qualify for the state tournament, he would have been thrilled.
And, in fact, that’s exactly what Warde faced on Wednesday against Ridgefield: Find a way to win and made the Class LL field.
But the Mustangs couldn’t get that elusive final victory as the Tigers belted three home runs to win 7-5 at the Mustangs’ field.
“They never gave up, they fought to the very end,” Conner said, trying not to look at his players in the dugout as they packed their equipment bags for the last time. “There’s not much else you can say, you know? No one would have thought that we could get in this position that we’d have an opportunity to get back to the state tournament. But these kids battled.”
After that 0-6 start, Warde won seven of its last 14 games, a solid effort but just not enough to make the postseason.
“They never quit, they bought in,” Conner said. “There were many teachable moments and these guys will take away a lot from this and go on to become successful young men.”
Ridgefield, already in the FCIAC playoffs and the Class LL tournament, hit all three of its homers off starter Zach McKay. Pinch-hitter Lucas Furneri had a grand slam in the third to erase a 2-0 Mustangs lead, Matt Colin had a solo shot in the fourth and Quinn McDonald had a two-run blast in the fifth to give the Tigers a 7-3 cushion.
“It was a good day for hitting. We went through a stretch where we weren’t hitting that well, but now it seems we’re getting into the right frame of mind with the playoffs coming around,” Ridegfield coach Paul Fabbri said. “That’s Quinn’s second home run in two days and Furneri … I’ve been waiting for that for two years, that turned the game around.”
Will Mitola’s RBI double in the first made it 1-0 Warde and Ryan Donnelly’s sacrifice fly pushed the Mustangs’ lead to 2-0 in the second before Furneri’s blast put the Tigers in front.
“It was great. The pitcher had me 3-1 and I was waiting for that pitch and he grooved me one right down the middle and I wanted to take advantage,” Furneri said. “This is a great way to get prepared for the playoffs.”
Max Lee — who went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer, a triple and a single — scored on Sam Vincent’s single to pull the Mustangs within 4-3. Lee’s homer got Warde back within 7-5. The Mustangs put the first two runners on base in the seventh, but they couldn’t find any last-inning magic.
“Max … he is everything that Warde baseball is all about,” Conner said, fighting back his emotions. “He makes me so proud every single day. Team captain. Incredible kid, incredible student. I’m going to miss that kid.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Warde’s Max Lee. The senior catcher threw out a runner at second, tagged out a runner at the plate and was a double away from hitting from the cycle, hitting a single, a triple and a two-run homer, scoring three runs.
Ridgefield’s Lucas Furneri. Tigers coach Paul Fabbri brought him in to pinch-hit for Peter Columbia in the third and the senior delivered, hammering a grand slam home run over the fence in left to give Ridgefield a lead it would never relinquish.
“It’s been a bit of a difficult season but we really fought back. We started to play well the last half of the season. That’s a good baseball team over there and we competed with them for seven innings. I’m proud of how we all fought back.” — Warde catcher Max Lee
RIDGEFIELD 7, WARDE 5
004 120 0—7 11 2
110 020 0—5 9 0
Records: Warde 7-13, 7-9 FCIAC; Ridgefield 15-5, 12-4
HR: W — Lee; R — Furneri, Colin, McDonald