Junior second baseman Brandon Abate smacked a two-RBI single to cap New Canaan's five-run fifth inning Monday and set up an 8-1 Rams victory over Fairfield Warde at Mead Park. New Canaan (5-1, 3-1 FCIAC) won its third straight game as starter Dan Rajkowski pitched four innings of one-run ball in his long-awaited return to the rotation following Tommy John surgery. The Mustangs (3-3, 3-1 FCIAC) allowed 11 hits, while they mustered four in the first six innings while at the plate.
"They had a big fifth inning and capitalized on a couple of our mistakes and walks," Warde coach Mark Caron said. "I told the guys we had to play seven innings to get the win, and we really only played four. They're too good of a team to not play a complete game against and have a shot."
Rams reliever Alex Lapolice (2-0) picked up the win with three scoreless innings of work, as he helped his own cause with three runs scored. However, the story was Rajkowski, who struck out the final batter of every inning with a total of five on the afternoon.
"I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes," the senior starter said. "In my first two innings, I knew I had a pretty good pitch count. But then my teammates backed me up in the field a lot, and it helped a lot. It's a great feeling to be back in the rotation."
At the plate, New Canaan captain Matt Toth went 4-for-4 and scored the final run of the game, as part of a two-run sixth inning. The Rams scored first on Rajkowski's RBI single in the opening inning, though they managed just three hits in the following three innings. As Mustangs starter Hunter Hewitt settled in, centerfielder Mike Foley delivered an RBI double in the third to knot the score at 1-1.
Two innings later, New Canaan chased Hewitt by stringing together six consecutive base runners, en route to batting through the order.
"I may have gone a little too long with him in that fifth inning," Caron said. "But he's one of our better pitchers, so I wanted to give him a shot to see if he could get out of it. And they responded. They're a good hitting team all-around."
A Toth single, sandwiched by a pair of walks, opened the frame and helped load the bases for Rams third baseman Erik Jager with one out. Jager then drew a walk of his own to score the go-ahead run, before catcher Zack Smith plated another with an infield single to short. Next, Abate stepped in and smashed a base hit to right, which eventually cleared the bases after a Mustangs' throwing error.
"We hit the ball the whole game pretty hard," New Canaan coach Mitch Hoffman said. "It finally just started clicking in."
Warde's Billy Money stepped in to relieve Hewitt and retired the final two batters. He went on to allow two more runs before Lapolice closed the door by inducing a groundball double play. Both teams play home games Tuesday at 4 p.m., as the Rams battle Harding and the Mustangs play host to Greenwich.
New Canaan 8, Fairfield Warde 1
Fairfield Warde 001 000 0--1 6 2
New Canaan 100 052 X--8 11 2
Records: Fairfield Warde 3-3, 3-1 FCIAC; New Canaan 5-1, 3-1 FCIAC. Batteries: FW--Hunter Hewitt (L, 1-1), Billy Money (5) and Anthony Miller; NC--Dan Rajkowski, Alex Lapolice (W, 2-0) (5) and Zack Smith. Highlights: FW--Michael Foley collected two of the Mustangs' six hits, including an RBI double. NC--Matt Toth went 4 for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Lapolice picked up his second win and scored three runs.