Natoli, Warde stop Westhill
FAIRFIELD -- After stumbling twice last week against Darien and New Canaan and falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, Warde coach Mark Caron was looking for a rebound game for his team and a strong performance from pitcher John Natoli.
He got both.
The Mustangs used a four-run fourth inning to erase a one-run deficit and Natoli pitched his second straight complete game as Warde defeated Westhill 5-2 on a blustery Monday afternoon and qualified for the CIAC tournament with its eighth win.
"Our strength is our pitching, there's no doubt about it," Caron said, as the Mustangs improved to 8-2 overall, 6-2 in the FCIAC. "We can throw strikes and keep hitters off-balance. John's got a `plus' fastball and it certainly gives us a lot of confidence when he's starting."
Natoli surrendered just five hits and didn't allow one after the fourth inning. He struck out seven and walked two.
"Their pitcher really kept us from having that big inning," Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. "We'd get a couple guys on and we couldn't get them across the plate. They played a solid game all around."
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Warde strung together three consecutive hits from Reece Maniscalco, Bobby Lazar and Sean Homa to tie the game at 2-2. Zach Weinstein walked to load the bases and Natoli's grounder to second plated Lazar to give the Mustangs the lead. The daggers came both Jack Myers and Joey Deutsch, who banged out RBI singles with two outs to make it 5-2.
"Jack Myers had a great two-out hit. Joey Deustch had a big two-out hit. We have to capitalize when we have the opportunity and today, we did it," Caron said. "But we've got to find a way to have more consistent at-bats. That was our struggle last week, I think we managed just two runs in three games, so we have to find some hits, get those critical two-out hits."
Westhill (3-5, 2-5 FCIAC) touched Natoli for a run in the first on a leadoff double from Luke Dawson and a RBI single by Johnny Spoto. The Mustangs answered in the bottom of the frame when Dakota DeJordy singled with one out, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a RBI single by Nick Nardone.
In the fourth, the Vikings got a single from Spoto, who was then balked to second by Natoli. Spoto scored when Matt Gorey's slow grounder was thrown away by Natoli. But from that point on, Westhill only managed two other runners to get as far as second base.
"We can't just rely on our top two or three hitters in the order to produce runs, we have to find some other ways to push runs across," Mulvany said. "Things aren't clicking right now for us but we're going to keep grinding. We'll find a way."
Just asWarde did, bouncing back from a 6-1, 6-0 losses to Darien and New Canaan, respectively.
"Today was a critical game," Caron said. "Two losses .. then maybe three losses then maybe negativity sets in, so we knew today was a big game."
Said Natoli: "It was big for us because we were kind of in a little slump there and we swung the bats good today. We hit the ball hard, which was good to see and I just did my job on the mound."
WESTHILL 100 100 0--2 5 1
WARDE 100 400 x--5 8 2
Records: Warde 8-2, 6-2 FCIAC; Westhill 3-5, 2-5 FCIAC
Batteries: Warde--John Natoli (W, 3-0) and Dan DeBartolomeo; Westhill--Bill Blau (L), Michael Lisinichia (6) and Joey DePreta.
Highlights: Westhill--Luke Dawson had two hits, including a double, and scored a run. Johnny Spoto had two hits. Warde--Reece Maniscalco had two hits and scored a run. Jack Myers, Joe Deutsch and Sean Homa all had RBI singles. Natoli pitched a complete game and struck out seven.