DARIEN -- The good news for the Darien-New Canaan Junior Legion baseball team is that Monday's 1-0 win over Stamford counts the same as Tuesday's 16-6 loss to Ridgefield. The not so good news is that this most recent setback put the Darien-led squad up against a wall and playing for its playoff lives as the regular season winds down.
Darien fell to 10-11 with five games to play, meaning the team must win all of its remaining games to qualify for the postseason.
"If we could have won this game, things would have been a lot easier," said Coach Mike Patrona, whose squad now must defeat Trumbull and Wilton twice each, and Bridgeport once to extend its summer. Darien has already defeated one-win Bridgeport and eight-win Wilton, but has not beaten Trumbull, which boasts a 17-4 mark and sits in second place behind 18-3 Stamford.
"You never know. We are capable of putting together a great baseball game, like 1-0 against Stamford," Patrona said. "We're capable and we have the tools to do it. It's just a question of whether or not we do it."
The next test, Friday against Trumbull, certainly stands to be a tough one.
"It's a big game," Patrona said.
Against the best team in the league, Stamford, Darien got outstanding pitching from Cam Smith who tossed a four-hit, complete game shutout. Andrew Nault drove in Brendan Donohue with the game's only run on a single.
"Stamford's a very good team. We played extremely well. We were confident going into the game," said Patrona, adding that everybody contributed with strong fielding to back Smith's pitching performance.
Then came an error- and walk-filled performance against visiting Ridgefield, which moved to within one victory of qualifying for the playoffs by improving to 14-9. Darien committed six errors, and a handful of walks and a couple of hit batsmen led to Ridgefield blowing open a close game in the third inning.
The game was even at 2-2 when Ridgefield batted around, and then some, plating eight runs.
Darien had a bases loaded, one out situation in the bottom of the second but couldn't push across another run to take the lead.
In the top of the third, Darien pitcher Luke Magnan loaded the bases on a walk, hit by pitch and another walk. He walked consecutive batters on full count pitches to force in a pair of runs, ending his evening. Brendan Cronin came in to pitch and surrendered a three-run double off the bat of Jack Orzechowski, giving Ridgefield a 7-2 lead.
Down 10-2 in the bottom of the inning, Smith led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on Andrew Dirvin's RBI ground out.
Ridgefield tacked on six more runs in the fourth. Darien scored three late runs but couldn't muster enough offensive fireworks to overcome the rough third and fourth innings.
"The name of the game is throwing strikes. If you throw strikes you'll be successful -- you'll have a chance to be in every game," Patrona said. "Walks will kill you."