Trailing in the sixth inning of Monday's CIAC Class S state tournament first-round home game, the Notre Dame-Fairfield baseball team had its opponent right where it wanted it.
No, really, the Lancers -- after what transpired for the third straight game -- might be hoping for more sixth-inning deficits as the playoffs unfold.
Sixth-seeded Notre Dame scored five times in the sixth frame to complete a wild comeback and top No. 27 Wamogo 10-6. The Lancers advanced to take on No. 22 Morgan on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Fabbri Field. Notre Dame improved to 16-5 and the Warriors, of Litchfield, ended their season at 8-13.
The Lancers scored 10 runs in the sixth inning against Bunnell and three in the sixth against Pomperaug en route to the South-West Conference title this past week. The team has posted a whopping 27 runs in the sixth inning or later during the last three games.
"I tell these kids, `Never give up,' " Notre Dame coach Bill Mazzucco said.
Sophomore pitcher Dillon Stimpson relieved and put out the fire by working 3 and 2/3 scoreless innings to finish the game and earn the win after the Lancers found themselves in an early hole.
"I was just focusing on the win at that point," Stimpson said of entering the game. "I knew our offense always comes back in the sixth inning."
Down 5-0 after three innings and 6-2 heading to the bottom of the fourth, the Lancers struck for three runs in the fourth to get back into the game.
Trailing 6-5 in the sixth, Matt Coppola blooped a leadoff single and stole second base. Spencer Basset, who started the game on the mound for Notre Dame, reached on an infield single and a throwing error -- one of five errors by the Warriors -- allowed the tying run to score.
Mark Komaromi was hit by a pitch and Brendan Barger followed with a go-ahead single to left. Two outs later, Matt Lasky drilled a two-run triple to deep right center to give the Lancers some breathing room with a 9-6 lead. Matt Moffat followed with a hard single inside first to drive in the last run.
In the fourth, the Lancers chipped away and took advantage of some Wamogo miscues. Lasky and Moffat started the frame with consecutive singles to the outfield and Collin Cegelka followed with an infield hit. Coppola then hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 6-3. One batter later, Cegelka stole second base and a wild throw sailed into center field, allowing one run to score. Cegelka hustled around third and came home on another bad throw. It looked as if he might have scored anyway.
Suddenly it was a new ballgame at 6-5.
"We don't let anything get us down. We battle through adversity," Lasky said.
Stimpson entered with the bases loaded in the fourth and his team trailing 5-2. He allowed a single to produce a run but first baseman Moffat made a relay throw home to catcher Lasky to nab the trailing runner.
That was the second of two throw-outs at the plate for the Lancers. Center fielder Cegelka threw out a runner at home in the third.
Stimpson, who throws a fastball, curve and changeup, had one-two-three efforts in each of the last three innings.
Lasky had plenty of praise for Stimpson. "He's been unreal the whole season," the catcher said.
"The kid is fantastic," said Mazzucco, noting that this was Stimpson's 11th win of the season.
Basset was relieved in the second by Matt DeFilippo, who was taken out in the fourth.
Basset, Coppola, Lasky, and Moffat all had two hits, and Lasky was the only Lancer with more than one run driven in, two on that clutch triple.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter