Solid pitching, clutch hitting gives Warde another win
FAIRFIELD -- Throughout the first half of the season, the Warde baseball team has thrived, thanks in part to a big inning that usually puts it in command. It scored 13 runs in one inning against Greenwich, 11 versus Harding, eight against Danbury and four versus Westhill.
And on Friday against Stamford, it was more of the same. The Mustangs used a five-run fourth inning to break away from a scoreless deadlock and hold on for a 5-2 victory, giving Warde its 10th win in 12 starts, including 8-2 in the FCIAC.
"That's kind of been the story of our season so far," said Warde pitcher Reece Maniscalco. "It would be nice to have two or three big innings to make it easier, but for now, we're decent."
Decent? Try clutch. The Mustangs strung together five of their seven hits in the fourth inning en route to the decision, getting clutch two-outs hits from Zach Weinstein and Zavier Espinel in that five-run fourth to blow the game open.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Maniscalco and Bobby Lazar banged out back-to-back singles and Sean Homa walked to load the bases. Weinstein delivered with a slow roller to short that scored two runs (thanks to the huge hustle of Lazar, who scored all the way from second) and then Espinel hammered a long double into the gap in right center to make it 4-0. An error pushed the Warde margin to 5-0.
"The kid (Billy DeVito) on the mound for them had good velocity early on and kept us off balance in the beginning and then we got a couple of breaks," Warde coach Mark Caron said. "And we really haven't had a lot of breaks in terms of other teams making errors against us, and they gave us a couple of runs in that inning and the way Reece was pitching, that was all that we needed."
Maniscalso (2-1) went the distance, allowing just two hits and no earned runs. He struck out nine and walked only two. He retired the first 14 batters he faced and finally lost his no-hit bid with one out in the sixth.
"I was able to throw the ball where I wanted to. If I wanted to go outside, it was there. My slider was decent today, too," Maniscalco said.
"Give (Reece) credit, he threw a fantastic game," Stamford coach Rit Lacomis said. "We only had two hits the entire game and that's not going to get it done unless your guy throws a shutout. It was tough, we got into a couple of jams and any time that happens, you hope that there's not a letdown there. And that's when the momentum shifted."
A rare error on Warde's part allowed Stamford to score twice in the sixth inning and cut the Mustangs lead to 5-2. But in the top of the seventh, Maniscalco got two strikeouts and a fly ball to right to lock down the win.
"We're excited. Since we split (into Warde and Ludlowe), I think this is one of the best starts we've had," Caron said. "We thought we'd have a chance to be in every game this year with our pitching and we've gotten a lot of clutch hits. We haven't had a ton of hits but when we've had them, we score in bunches. It's a sign of a confident bunch of kids."
STAMFORD 000 002 0--2 2 2
WARDE 000 500 x--5 7 1
Records: Warde 10-2, 8-2 FCIAC; Stamford 7-5, 5-5. Batteries: W--Reece Maniscalso (W, 2-1) and John Natoli; S--Billy DeVito (L, 1-3) and Tyler Serricchio. Highlights: W--Nick Nardone had two hits. Zach Weinstein had a two-run single. Zavier Espinel had a two-run double. S--Jalen Brown and James Gronberg had singles.