Mark Caron just wanted his players to believe, even after a 17-3 drubbing by Trumbull two weeks earlier gave them every reason not to.
Fairfield Warde dropped one more game after that, leaving the Mustangs 10-8 in a muddled FCIAC playoff picture. The losses stung, but they weren't forgotten.
"Any time you're beat 17-3, it's kind of a laugher, I told them after the game, `Suck it up. Watch that,' " Caron said May 31. "Just let it motivate you."
The Mustangs did.
Last Saturday afternoon, the Mustangs embraced near the pitcher's mound at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. This celebration was unlike any other in the team's history. This celebration was one to be remembered, especially after those painful defeats.
Riding Hunter Hewitt's left arm, Warde claimed its first FCIAC baseball title lsdy Saturday, shutting down Trumbull 4-0.
This one felt extra special, for all the obvious reasons. The Mustangs, appearing in their first final, trumped one of the league's top dogs. Trumbull dropped to 4-3 all-time in the final, with losses in back-to-back seasons.
"Coming in here, it was just fun and games for us," said right fielder Tom Luckner, who recorded two hits, including a two-run triple. "It was really easy because we were the underdogs the entire time. There was barely any pressure on us."
That feeling carried onto the mound, where Hewitt dominated for 5 2/3 innings. Keeping Trumbull off-balance by varying speed and location, the senior allowed only four hits.
"I know my fastball's not that fast, so I have to locate," said Hewitt, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Hewitt eventually got some support from Warde's bats, too. A two-out error in the second opened the door for Luckner to deliver the decisive blow; a two-run triple that rolled into the right-field corner for a 3-0 lead.
The Mustangs recorded eight hits, but that was more than enough.
"We only had four hits, but I feel like we swung the bat a lot better than that," Trumbull coach Phil Pacelli said. "They made all the plays. We hit a lot of balls right at people pretty hard with authority. Unfortunately, we have nothing to show for it."
A slew of miscues on the basepaths compounded the Eagles' offensive struggles. Threats in both the second and third were squandered as the Eagles ran into inning-ending outs at third base.
In the third, a first-and-third, one-out opportunity was wasted on Avery Santos' hard-luck liner to third base. Warde's Zach Weinstein snagged the ball inches from the dirt and stepped on the bag for the force.
The sixth inning ended with a runner picked off first base.
"Definitely a couple blunders out there," Pacelli said.
Warde (15-8) capitalized. Each time, it made sure of it. In doing so, it appeared to suck the life out of Trumbull, which sent the minimum to the plate over the final three innings against Hewitt and reliever Nick Nardone.
"It's so rewarding," Caron said of the Mustangs' title. "To do it with this group of kids is really special."
The Mustangs had plenty to look back on as well. They hadn't forgotten about the pounding Trumbull handed them on May 15.
"They definitely were not nervous today," Caron said. "They just believed that they could do it. Honestly, losing 17-3 and never beating Trumbull, they were motivated. They were hungry."
Trumbull, which last won the FCIAC in 2012, will now prepare for its LL state tournament opener, Monday against FCIAC foe Westhill. The Eagles were a state finalist a year ago and Pacelli is confident that his club will respond. He's also quite confident in ace pitcher Colin Keyes, who struggled in two-and-one-third innings on May 31 while starting on three-days rest.
Keyes, who tossed a complete game in a quarterfinal win over New Canaan on May 27, allowed four hits, walked two and was charged with three runs (one earned).
"I'd give him the ball again tomorrow," Pacelli said. "With someone with his record and resume, he asks for the ball, you give it to him."
FCIAC championship at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard
FAIRFIELD WARDE 030 000 1--4 8 1
TRUMBULL 000 000 0--0 4 1
Records: Fairfield Warde 15-8; Trumbull 16-7. Batteries: FW--Hunter Hewitt (W), Nick Nardone (6) and Anthony Miller; T--Colin Keyes (L), Nikko Arganese (3), Connor Smith (7) and Carlos Garrido. Highlights: FW--Hewitt, the game's Most Valuable Player pitched five-and-two-thirds scoreless innings; Tom Lucker went 2-for-4 with a two-run triple; Zach Weinstein had a sacrifice fly. T--Jake Levison and Zach Sagar each doubled.