FAIRFIELD -- Shoddy fielding cost the Ludlowe baseball team its rivalry game Monday against cross-town foe Warde. However, the fielding was solid two days later as the Falcons got all their runs in the last three innings on Wednesday to rally past Westhill 4-3 in an FCIAC game at Kiwanis Field.
Reliable fielding rarely wins games by itself unless there is strong pitching and timely hitting to complement the defense. Ludlowe got both and won it on shortstop Taylor Szemplinski's single into right-center field with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
Westhill brought a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth, then responded to the Falcons' three-run fifth, which gave them a 3-2 lead, with a two-out, bases-loaded walk by sophomore second baseman John Spoto that made it 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning.
Ludlowe's victory improved its overall record to 10-6 overall and 8-6 in the FCIAC. The Falcons had begun the day in a tie for ninth place in the conference standings along with Greenwich and Wilton. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs beginning May 27.
The Vikings entered the game at No. 4 (10-4) The loss drops Westhill 10-7 overall and 10-5 in the conference.
Westhill coach DJ Mulvany was anticipating a win over Ludlowe giving the Vikings some comfort within the FCIAC field.
"It was a big game for both of us," Mulvany said. "I wasn't looking forward to knocking them out. I was looking at it as one big step at getting closer to the FCIAC tournament. We certainly blew an opportunity to play with a little less pressure next week.
"Ludlowe always plays us tough. Ludlowe has had some nice wins. Every (FCIAC) game is a huge game."
The starting pitchers accepted the challenge of game's importance, though neither got the decision. Westhill starter Billy Blau last 4ï»¿2/3 innings, giving up six hits and a walk with one strikeout. He surrendered a two-out, bases-loaded two-run single to Ludlowe right fielder Patrick O'Leary in the fifth that turned the Falcons' 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 led.
Austin Nardi relieved him, got out of the inning and issued a walk in the sixth inning to the Falcons. An infield error hurt Nardi in the bottom of the seventh, but he allowed a single to first baseman Kevin Hickey before Mulvany decided to have O'Leary reach on an intential walk to load the bases, setting up a force at any plate. Then Szemplinksi delivered.
Sophomore Chris Huzil relieved Falcons' starter Dan Stanko in the sixth inning after Spoto tied at 3-3 with his bases-loaded walk. Huzil hit Westhill's Luke Dawson leading off the top of the seventh but that was it.
"He hasn't had many opportunities (to pitch this season)," Falcons' coach Mike Francese said of Huzil. "The next time we put him in there, we'll have more confidence in him. He has a live fastball and he pounds the strike zone. He took full advantage (of the opportunity)."
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Ludlowe 4, Westhill 3
WESTHILL 000 111 0--3 7 2
LUDLOWE 000 030 1--4 8 0
Records: Westhill 10-7, 10-5 FCIAC; Ludlowe 10-6, 8-6 FCIAC. Batteries: W--Billy Blau, Austin Nardi (5) (L, 0-1) and Mike Rossi; L--Daniel Stanko, Chris Huzil (6) (W, 1-0) and Connor Daley. Highlights: W--Dave Lauture had an RBI walk; Luke Dawson had an RBI single; starter Billy Blau gave up 6 hits and 1 walk with 1 strikeout; L--Patrick O'Leary (2-for-2) had a two-run single; Taylor Szemplinski had game-winning single; starter Dan Stanko allowed 7 hits and 4 walks with 3 strikeouts.