Falcons soar to top of FCIAC standings with string of dramitic wins
If the first game of the season can be used as an indicator of things to come, then the Fairfield Ludlowe baseball team is living a charmed life in 2019. Ludlowe opened its season in dramatic fashion, notching a walk-off 6-5 victory over Barlow thanks to an eighth-inning RBI single from Thomas Stasko.
The win set a tone for the Falcons, who are 10-1 as of Wednesday — a Class LL playoff berth wrapped off before the calendar turned to May.
More than winning, Ludlowe is finding ways to grind out victories in extra innings. Five of the Falcons’ victories have come via walk-offs and four of those have been in extra innings, coincidentally all by 6-5 scores.
The dramatic wins have spurred the Falcons, who want to keep the momentum rolling when the stakes begin rising.
“It kind of does get contagious,” captain Vince Camera said this week. “No one wants to just do it for themselves. Everybody wants to be that guy who gets that hit that everyone on the team is happy for. You’re the guy rounding the bases and the team comes running out of the dugout. It is contagious because you want to be that guy and it motivates people to practice more and come through and lock-in in that spot in the game.”
The Falcons have been “locked in” since the fall, when the majority of the team began preparing for the season. Ludlowe’s 15 seniors are well-aware of the opportunity they have before them.
“This year we have more of an edge,” captain Derek Tallman said. “We feel we have something to prove. Last year we were a team with no identity. This year everyone is dialed in on winning.”
And winning is something the Falcons have identified and kept on doing. Ludlowe swept a double-header on April 16 at Greenwich. It then lost 2-1 to Ridgefield on April 17 but followed it with a walk-off win over Trumbull the next day via a Brian Howell single.
As the wins pile up, the Falcons sense the unease in the opposing dugout as the games continue.
“Against Danbury everyone starting yelling, ‘uh oh … Ludlowe in extra innings,’ ” Tallman said. “We know we can do it, and now other teams probably do too.”
Jamie Flink’s home run gave Ludlowe a 11-run win vs. Naugatuck. Blake Benway hit a sacrifice-fly to top Danbury in 11 innings and Stasko provided another clutch single to defeat North Haven.
“Everyday someone else can be a different hero,” coach Mike Francese said.
Junior Nick Parisi (.444) leads six Falcons batting over .300, including Greg Calabrese, James Delmiche, Camera, Tallman and Howell. Camera and Parisi each have an OPS over 1.000, helping Ludlowe outscore opponents 55-28.
“You can’t really say you expect to do this well, but we really prepared in the offseason, not just a couple guys,” Camera said.
Pitching was more of a question mark for the Falcons ahead of the season, but the staff has an ERA of 1.59. Flink has allowed only one run in 14 innings — earning two wins as a starter and two in relief. Connor O’Neil has 22 strikeouts in 17 innings, to go along with a 1.24 ERA. Matt Micimilio and Delmiche both have ERAs in the mid-2s after three starts, while Chris Benton has 16 strikeouts in 11 innings.
“They’re pretty hard to hit against,” Camera siad. “It’s nice when the top of the order jumps out and gets a run and the pitcher shuts the door.”
The early-season success pushed Ludlowe to the top of both the Class LL and FCIAC standings at the season’s midway point.
“We’ve tried to establish that we can’t get too comfortable because every single team is trying to beat us,” Tallman said. “We have a target on our back, that we put on our back, that’s what we want.”
The Falcons are very familiar with being on the other side of the coin. A season ago they scrambled to qualify for the FCIAC playoffs as the No. 8 seed, but managed to upend top-seeded Ridgefield in the quarterfinals.
“The fact that the kids show that resiliency and fight is a great sign going into the second half of the season,” Francese said. “We want to keep riding that high and keep riding those good feelings and good luck sometimes. Sometimes you have to get lucky in baseball.”