DARIEN — Up eight runs and seemingly in control in the fifth, the Westhill baseball team saw it all dissipate in almost an instant.
Darien scored four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game at eight headed to the seventh, but the Vikings responded with two of their own in the top-half of the final frame to down the Blue Wave 10-8 in Darien Thursday, clinching home-field throughout the FCIAC tournament.
“We showed a lot of character,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “(Timothy Wainwright) had a good at-bat and got a walk, (Robert Zmarzlak) had a big hit and (Dean DePreta) had a great bunt (resulting in a throwing error that allowed the go-ahead run to score) so we were able to break it open a little bit. Baseball at this part of the year is finding ways of manufacturing runs and we did that inning.”
Westhill (14-2, 12-2 FCIAC) greeted Darien’s Senior Day rudely, tallying three in the first with Joseph Skarad’s two-run single highlighting the early lead.
After a Darien error started the second, Zmarzlak connected on a two-run homer to put Westhill up five after two innings.
The Vikings tacked on one in the third and two more in the fifth on back-to-back solo homers from Wainwright and Zmarzlak.
“I just saw the ball well and tried to hit it hard,” said Zmarzlak, who finished the day 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs. “And luckily, I hit it well.”
In the bottom of the fifth Darien (10-8, 9-6) cut the lead in half with four runs on four hits and two walks.
The Wave tied it in the bottom of the sixth, erupting for four, two-out runs — three on a homer to right from Darien’s Mr. Clutch, Sean O’Malley.
“At the end of the day we found ourselves down 8-0 and found a way to tie it up,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “It’s tough because we’ve had a few too many moral victories this year where we haven’t come up on the right side of the win column, but these guys don’t quit and if we can sneak into the playoffs that will help us.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Robert Zmarzlak, Westhill. The sophomore center fielder went 4-for-5 in the contest with four RBIs and two home runs.
SAW IT COMING
Even with an eight-run lead, DJ Mulvany wasn’t comfortable as he waited for the Darien bats to come alive.
“I was waiting for it to happen,” Mulvany said. “(Darien coach Mike Scott’s) club always has a knack to play to the last out. I was waiting for them to wake up a little bit, I was hoping they wouldn’t, but he’s got a great group over there so we just had to ride it out.”
With one conference contest remaining — against Norwalk on Wednesday — Darien has to be at its best to secure a spot in the FCIAC tournament.
“We need to play a clean game Wednesday against Norwalk,” Scott said. “We have a bye on Monday, so we need pitching and fielding. If the bats keep doing what they’re doing we’ll be alright. These guys just have to step up.”
WESTHILL 10, DARIEN 8
WESTHILL 3 2 1 0 2 0 2—10 10 1
DARIEN 0 0 0 0 4 4 0—8 10 5
Records: Westhill 14-2, 12-2 FCIAC; Darien 10-8, 9-6. Batteries: W—John MacDonald, Hunter Semmell (6, W), Montana Semmell (7, S) and Joseph Skarad; D—Peter Marren, Jackson Vaught (2), Sam Hickey (5), Casey Brown (7,L) and Sean O’Malley.