When the home team pitcher strikes out the side in the top of the first inning, that feat can often set the tone for what comes next. Of course, the home team's hitters having productive at-bats and its fielders supporting the pitcher in the innings that follow are important ingredients to complete the mission.
Fairfield Warde put it all together -- hitting, pitching, defense -- on Wednesday afternoon after sophomore starter Reece Maniscalco struck out three Norwalk batters in the first inning of a 10-1 conference victory that prevented a Mustangs' losing streak from going beyond two games. Warde improved to 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the FCIAC after losses to conference powers New Canaan and Greenwich on Monday and Tuesday.
Norwalk, whose losing streak reached three games, collected three hits off Maniscalco, who improved to 2-1. Six Bears were struck out by Maniscalco, who walked three. Norwalk (3-4 overall, 2-3 FCIAC) trailed 1-0 before a three-run Mustangs' fourth inning.
"You know, he (Maniscalco) pitched well, but I really couldn't tell," said Norwalk coach Pete Tucci, whose previous teams had never been shut out in three straight games. The Bears had lost 7-0 to St. Joseph on Monday and by 1-0 to Danbury on Tuesday.
"Our last four games we've made every pitcher we've faced look like Nolan Ryan out there. He (Maniscalco) looked real good."
Norwalk starter Chris Cotaling (0-1) made his first appearance on the mound this spring, as Norwalk has been searching to find reliable pitching, Tucci said. Cotaling prevented Warde from taking a 1-0 lead until the third inning.
In the fourth inning, Cotaling hit Giacomo Brancato with a pitch with the bases loaded, making it 2-0 Warde. He was relieved by Alex Faccenda and Maniscalco -- the first batter faced in relief -- knocked in two more runs with a single to left for a 4-0 Mustangs' lead.
"I thought Reece threw a lot of strikes early in the counts, especially when he struck out the side in the first," said Warde coach Mark Caron. "That built up his confidence. He was outstanding with both of his pitches, his fastball and curveball."
The run Maniscalco gave up in the fifth inning was unearned because of two Mustangs' errors, though a balk moved Corey Hayes into scoring position for the Bears. Warde's infield defense was flawless outside of the fifth, with sharp plays turned in by third baseman Zach Weinstein and shortstop Dakota DeJordy.
Warde's hitting star was senior Alex Goven, who drove in three runs. Caron said Goven is batting around .350. His triple down the first base line scored Weinstein, who had reached on an error, in the third inning. Goven's two-run single in the sixth stretched Warde's lead to 8-1.
"When he's on, he swings a good bat," Caron said of Goven, a righty whose RBI hits were hit the opposite way. "He's had some big games for us. He seems to like the nine hole (in the lineup) for us. He's batted in the ninth spot in two games, and he had three RBI in both of them."
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Fairfield Warde 10, Norwalk 1
NORWALK 000 010 0--1 3 2
FAIRFIELD WARDE 001 315 X--10 10 2
Records: Norwalk 3-4, 2-3 FCIAC, Fairfield Warde 4-4, 4-2 FCIAC. Batteries: N--Chris Cotaling (L, 0-1), Alex Faccenda (4), Max Berman (6), Zach LaRusso (6) and Ryan Evans; FW--Reece Maniscalco (W, 2-1), Bill Money (7) and Anthony Miller.