Ludlowe rebounds with win over rival Warde in LL opener
FAIRFIELD — It wasn’t the happiest of Memorial Day weekends for the Fairfield Ludlowe baseball team after the Falcons lost in the FCIAC championship game to Staples last week.
Although deflated, the Falcons opted not to dwell on the defeat that saw the Wreckers rally with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to walk-off with the win on May 22 in Stamford.
Instead, Ludlowe strung together a focused set of practices and turned its attention toward the Class LL tournament, which just so happened to begin with a first round game against crosstown rival Warde.
And on Tuesday afternoon the Falcons didn’t waste any time turning the page. Ludlowe jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and went on to win 7-1 at Kiwanis Field.
“We know we were so close to being champs and we thought if we work hard in practice we could make a run in the state tournament,” Ludlowe starter Chris Benton said. “I think we’re going to make a good run. We’ve got a good group of guys here. We’ll see what happens.”
No. 4 Ludlowe (19-5) will host the winner of No. 11 East Hartford/No. 22 Simsbury in the second round on Thursday. Warde, the No. 27 seed, ends its season 10-12.
“We lost a heartbreaker,” Ludlowe coach Mike Francese said. “It’s the right response to be upset, especially when you love the game and you play so hard for it. The only way to avenge a loss is to come back and respond, and today we did that.”
This was the third meeting between the Fairfield schools this season. Warde won the first — 8-0 on May 10 — spoiling Ludlowe’s senior day. Eight days later the Falcons took the rematch in the FCIAC quarterfinals, 5-4, in nine innings.
Warde starter Brett Lauterbach tossed a three-hit shutout in his first outing against Ludlowe. The Falcons ensured the righty wouldn’t repeat that feat on Tuesday with four runs in the first, sparked by Derek Tallman’s leadoff double. The Falcons took advantage of two errors and also got a two-run double from Jamie Flink.
“It always feels good to get four runs in the first inning,” Francese said. “If you can get me four runs in the first inning, thank you.”
Ludlowe added runs in the second and third, including an RBI single by Jack Vogel to lead 6-0.
Meanwhile Benton strung together three scoreless innings, until the Mustangs broke through in the fourth on Mason McKay’s two-out RBI single that scored Austin Stewart.
In the fifth Benton ran into trouble and appeared to lose command of his fastball. Warde put runners on the corners with two outs and Benton fell behind 3-0 to Sam Vincent. Benton, however, recovered and stuck out Vincent to end the threat.
“I was just trying to pump the zone and luckily I got him to swing at a high fastball,” Benton said.
For Warde it was a tough ending to a season that saw the Mustangs rally from a 4-8 start to qualify for both the FCIAC and Class LL tournaments.
“Each team will get a big inning and it’s how many you put up in that big inning. Unfortunately our big inning was one,” Warde coach Brett Conner said. “Our seniors were outstanding. Their leadership was incredible.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Chris Benton, Fairfield Ludlowe. The senior righty allowed one run, scattering four hits over five innings on the mound. He added a massive solo home run to right in the sixth to go along with a double and two runs scored.
This was one of only four Class LL games played on Tuesday. The rest were postponed by weather to Wednesday. Although it rained intermittently through the game the infield at Kiwanis showed no ill effects from the water.
“It’s just the way baseball goes sometimes. We’ve played two really tough battles with them. Today was no different. In the first inning they dictated the tempo putting up four runs. We tried to claw ourselves back into the game.” — Warde coach Brett Conner after his team played rival Ludlowe for the third time in 18 days.
Class LL First Round
LUDLOWE 7, WARDE 1
FAIRFIELD WARDE 000 100 0—1 6 3
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 411 001 x—7 10 0
Records: Fairfield Warde 10-12; Fairfield Ludlowe 19-5
Batteries: FW—Brett Lauterbach (L, 3-2), Harry Graney Green (2), Phil Hogan (4), Chris Saladin (6), Alex Wiggetman (6) and Finn Mobley; FL—Chris Benton (W, 4-0), Jamie Flink (6) and Blake Benway Home Runs: FL—Benton