FAIRFIELD -- With a pitching matchup featuring two of the FCIAC's best, a game in which, oh, say, three runs were scored wouldn't be unexpected. And that's kind of what happened when Fairfield Warde's Nick Nardone and Fairfield Ludlowe's Kevin Hickey matched up Monday.
Kind of .... as in, if you just want to count EARNED runs.
Nardone and Warde outdueled Hickey and Ludlowe 7-5 in the latest rendition of The Battle of Harbor Yard. A few mistakes, especially by Ludlowe during Warde's seven-run (one earned), fourth-inning rally, turned the potential pitching duel into a wild contest as the Mustangs won for the seventh time in eight games.
"One bad inning just killed us," Ludlowe coach Mike Francese said.
Before Warde (10-5, 10-3 FCAIC) struck for the seven runs in the fourth, Ludlowe (9-6, 7-6) had taken a 2-0 first-inning lead off Nardone. But the junior right-hander quickly put the bad start behind him. After allowed a Tommy Ryan triple, a Connor Daly single and a hit batsman, with a throwing error thrown in, Warde was quickly in a two-run hole. Nardone, however, retired 15 of the next 16 batters.
"I realized the kid pitching for the other side was really, really good," Nardone said. "So, after the bad start I just tried to adjust and give my defense the opportunity to play behind me."
Warde committed just one more error, although it did result in three unearned runs in the top of the sixth. But Nardone ended up allowing just four hits while striking out six and walking one in six innings.
"Nick is a bulldog," Warde coach Mark Caron said. "He's really tough once he settles in."
For a while it looked as if the 2-0 Ludlowe lead might stand up. But then came the fateful fourth inning.
Warde committed two errors and made three other misplays in the inning that were not scored errors. The defense behind him might have flustered Hickey, who gave up six hits, while also hitting a batter and issuing one walk and a wild pitch in the inning. A one-out dropped outfield fly ball ignited the rally and led to six unearned runs. Giacomo Brancato had a two-run double in the inning, Zach Weinstein a sacrifice fly, Mike Foley a two-run single and Tommy Luckner and Nardone added RBI singles.
"Anyone might let something like that get to him a little," Francese said, referring to the effect on Hickey after the Falcons' defensive lapses.
Hickey, however, quickly rebuked such an idea.
"There's no excuse, I've got to work through it, no matter what," said the tall righty who will pitch for the University of South Carolina-Upstate next year. "The defense has been there for us all year."
Ludlowe added three unearned runs in the top of the sixth with Nick Warkentin's two run double keying the uprising.
Nardone and Alex Goven led Warde with two hits each.
Daley, Patrick O'Leary, Taylor Szemplinski and Warkentin had RBIs for Ludlowe.
Warde 7, Ludlowe 5
LUDLOWE 200 003 0--5 4 2
WARDE000 700 x--7 9 2
Records: Ludlowe 9-6 (7-6 FCIAC), Warde 10-5 (10-3). Batteries: L--Kevin Hickey (L, 4-1), David Pierpont (4), Dan Stanco (6) and Billy Moeder; W--Nick Nardone (W), Reece Maniscalco (7) and Anthony Miller. Highlights: L--Nick Warkentin had a two-run double, Tommy Ryan had a triple, Hickey stuck out six and walked one in 3 2/3 innings. W--Nardone had two hits, struck out six and walked one in six innings, Alex Goven had two hits, Giacomo Brancato had a two-run double, Mike Foley had two RBI, Dakota DeJordy had a triple.