BRIDGEPORT — Heading into the last week of the regular season, the writing was on the wall for Fairfield Warde. Win and get in.

But it wasn’t that simple. The Mustangs needed to win twice in its last three games in order to clinch a Class LL playoff spot and thanks to a solid performance from Zach McKay on the mound and a stellar day at the plate from Ryan Donnelly, the Mustangs now need just one win in its last two to make the postseason.

And that first win was possibly the sweetest of the season as Warde pounded out 12 hits and rolled over town-rival Ludlowe 11-1 on Friday evening before an estimated crowd of 1,500 at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” Warde coach Brett Conner said. “I told these guys we had a three-game series coming up and we just got the first one out of the way but we still have two left and we have to win one of those to make the state tournament. A lot of this season we’ve simply been playing inconsistent, not trusting the preparation. Today, these guys were prepared. It was just a matter of them trusting themselves and going out and playing like they now how to.”

Warde scored two in the second, two more in the fourth and then blew the game open with a seven-run fifth to improve to 7-11 on the season and 7-7 in the FCIAC. Ludlowe, already qualified for the Class LL tournament, fell to 10-8 overall and 6-8 in the FCIAC.

“That was a good, old fashioned butt whipping,” Ludlowe coach Mike Francese said. “Their pitcher (McKay) threw a great game and their bats came alive … they scored 11 runs, they were certainly doing something right. It wasn’t that we made errors or made mistakes in the field, it was a matter of them going out and they did the job. They hit the ball and when you hit the ball like that and have a pitcher that’s in control, that spells disaster for you as the other team.”

Warde scored two runs in the second. Sam Vincent walked and stole second and then went to third on Owen Buherndorf’s single. When Buhrendorf stole second, the Mustangs had two runners in scoring position and the first of Donnelly’s three hits, a single to right, made it 2-0.

“It was amazing. I felt so good,” Donnelly said. “This was my first time starting here at Harbor Yard and it was an amazing feeling, playing your cross-town rival. It was great, there’s nothing better.”

An RBI triple from Vincent in the fourth, along with an RBI on a squeeze bunt from Buhrendorf, made it 4-0 and then the Mustangs added seven runs in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double from Will Mitola, a bases-loaded walk to Matt Raab and a three-run triple from Donnelly put Warde in control.

“Ryan Donnelly, he’s a gamer,” Conner said. “He’s a gamer, a great player, a great kid, a great leader, what else can you say about him?”

Ludlowe snapped the shutout in the sixth when Connor Devaney, who had doubled, scored on a double by Matt Landry.

“Never underestimate any team. They’re a good team,” Francese said. “They might have had just six wins coming in but you can’t underestimate anyone, especially a cross-town rival.”


Warde shortstop Ryan Donnelly and pitcher Zach McKay. Donnelly, a junior, went 3 for 4 with a triple, a run scored and five RBI. He also made a great catch in the top of the seventh, racing toward the left field stands to grab Alex Scott’s foul pop-up. McKay, also a junior. threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run and five hits with one walk and one strikeout in his best start of the season.


“This (Warde-Ludlowe) game is an animal. You never know what’s going to happen in this one, no matter what the records are. Take your hats off to (Warde), they played a great game. We just have to keep battling. We have two more regular season games and we’re trying to get a higher seeding in the states.” — Ludlowe coach Mike Francese


“It’s been a challenging year. My wife (Nicole) and I had a baby (Landon) six weeks ago, so it’s crazy. I can’t take a day off and you can’t be a light switch coach, turn things on when you show up to practice and play games and turn it off when you leave. You have to think about this, every day, every hour. And my guys are doing a great job.” — Warde coach Brett Conner;


WARDE 020 270 0 — 11 12 1

LUDLOWE 000 001 0 — 1 5 2

Records: Warde (7-11, 7-7 FCIAC); Ludlowe (10-8, 6-8)

Batteries: W — Zack McKay (W), Mark Garcia (7) and Finn Mobley; L — Sam Meyers (L), Chris Benton (5), Jacob Schwartzstein (5) and Alex Scott