A rally from a six-run deficit in the second game Monday in a morning/afternoon, two-opponent double-header by Notre Dame gave the Lancers a split in a pair of non-conference games at Fabbri Field in Fairfield. Their 9-7 win over Wilcox Tech, of Meriden, following a 9-1 loss to Barlow, leaves the Lancers with a 3-1 overall record. And with midseason only weeks away, Notre Dame is showing it can win in a variety of ways, which is what most coaches like to see.
On Monday, coach Bill Mazzucco did his part. With six games scheduled over five days in a seven-day span to kick-off the season, he realized that a successful formula would not feature simply penciling in pitchers to start, letting them at it and hoping their starts would have length and save other pitchers from more of a work load.
Mazzucco knew he'd have to manage the staff, rely on instincts from what he saw on the mound as much as keeping the rotation's schedule true.
Mazzucco was impressed with sophomore reliever Tyler Henchcliffe's 1-2-3 seventh inning against Barlow. So when Game 2 starter Andrew Goldstein wasn't at his best and it was time for the bullpen -- with the Indians leading 4-0, with one out and a runner on base in the second inning -- Mazzucco summoned Henchcliffe again a few hours later. Henchcliffe allowed the inherited runner to score and gave up another run in the third inning for a 6-0 deficit. Then he shut the door for three innings, permitting his hitters more at-bats to solve Wilcox Tech freshman starter Jack Rich, whose velocity had Lancers' batters out of synch.
The Lancers' batters finally did figure out Rich, scoring one run in the third inning before three-run outbursts in the fourth and fifth innings. Mark Komaromi's home run in the sixth inning off a Wilcox Tech reliever gave Notre Dame a 9-6 lead before Henchcliffe couldn't quite prevent a one-run rally by the Indians in the seventh inning.
"Pitching is at a premium now," Mazzucco said on Monday before the busy slate continued with scheduled games on Tuesday and Thursday, after the season opened with contests last week on Friday and Saturday.
"Andrew (Goldstein) just didn't have a good outing today; we'll definitely need him in the rotation this year. Tyler did well against Barlow, that's why we went back to him. I had confidence in him. He threw strikes and he has that curveball, and that's what he went with," Mazzucco said.
Henchcliffe finished by surrendering three runs in 5 2/3 innings on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. He stranded seven runners.
Spencer Bassett drove in the first run for Notre Dame with a sacrifice fly off Rich (seven hits, two walks, two strikeouts, four left on base) in the third inning. In the fourth inning, Mike Moffat, who went 2-for-3, knocked in a run with a single and Matt Coppola (2-for-3) followed with an run-scoring base hit, with Nick Carloto (2-for-2) making it 6-4 Indians on a sac fly. In the fifth inning, after Rich got the first two Lancers' batters, Matt Lasky walked and Moffat singled. Both scored on Coppola's triple to right field that tied it at 6-6. Carloto's double scored Coppola for a 7-6 Lancers' lead.
Dave Cronin, the coach for Wilcox Tech (0-3), gave credit to Notre Dame for battling back. "My hat's off to them. They scrapped. They were down by six and came right back. They took advantage of our mistakes (three errors)," said Cronin, whose team plays in the Constitution State Conference with other technical high schools.
Mazzucco was pleased that the Lancers' rallies followed the script at the plate, with the table-setters at the top of the order getting on base for the run-producers who hit after them and drove them home.
The Lancers collected 14 hits on April 11 in the season-opening 10-5 win at Bullard-Havens Tech and added 10 hits on April 12 in 6-0 win over Sacred Heart in Waterbury. In the win over Sacred Heart, sophomore Dillon Stimpson, of Fairfield, who went 7-3 for Notre Dame last year, walked the first batter he faced, then didn't give up a hit until the seventh inning in a one-hit victory.
Thus far, Notre Dame has won with an explosive attack, a well-pitched game and a gutsy rally aided by effective relief. The different ways of winning have been noted by Mazzucco. Better at-bats against Rich in Notre Dame's second and third plate appearances against him showed the Lancers can bring a sophisticated approach to the plate as well, and they can be adaptable.
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Notre Dame-Fairfield 9, Wilcox Tech 7
WILCOX TECH 141 000 1--7 9 3
NOTRE DAME 001 332 X--9 9 1