Will Lucas' first sectional tournament start was a struggle.
Fairfield American's No. 2 starter surrendered seven earned runs in five innings last Friday night against Wilton, exiting the game trailing 7-0 after Jack Dooley's grand slam.
"People don't appreciate how good a hitting team Wilton was," American manager Bill Meury said. "He pitched a better game than the score showed."
Fairfield rallied to win 8-7, a victory that ultimately caused it to reach Wednesday's Section 1 final against Annex.
Lucas could have doubted himself facing Annex -- the only lineup Fairfield had lost to in two years -- or wilted under the pressure of knowing he needed to give Fairfield a big start. The team's other starters Ryan Meury and Matt Kubel were unable to pitch, even out of relief, due to pitch count restrictions.
Instead, Lucas stole the show.
Lucas allowed just three hits and one home run in five innings. His pitching performance kept Fairfield in the game until American's offense piled on four runs in the top of the sixth inning, lifting Fairfield to a 6-2 win over Annex of New Haven.
"I wanted to redeem myself after the start against Wilton," Lucas said. "I had a good fastball and I was just able to get them out."
Lucas even blasted a home run in that sixth inning, giving American and reliever Matty Clarkin some insurance.
"I think it went farther," Lucas said when asked how it felt to hit a ball a mile and a half. "It felt good."
American's starter battled at times, and got significant help from his defense, including his catcher Biagio Paoletta, who threw out Eric Redente trying to score on a wild pitch in the first.
With one out in the second, Lucas walked Michael Lupoli and hit Tristan Punzo in the second, but ultimately struck out the last two batters-- two of his eight strikeouts.
"He was struggling to find the strike zone," Paoletta said. "He started relaxing and started throwing strikes."
Even after Lucas surrendered Tristan Punzo's game-tying home run in the fourth -- Punzo's second home run against Fairfield in as many games -- he kept Fairfield in contention. Lucas did not allow a hit after Punzo's homer, pitching out of a runner on second, one-out jam in the fifth.
"I just wanted to get out of that inning, so (Clarkin) could come in and finish the game," Lucas said.
Because he threw 87 pitches, Lucas is unavailable to pitch until Monday's state championship game 3, if necessary. Lucas knows what his team is up against, when it faces Avon in the best-of-three state final series.
"Avon's a great team," he said. "We just have to go out and play our game."