NEW CANAAN -- In a matchup of two FCIAC playoff hopefuls, the Fairfield Warde baseball team played sound baseball in all facets of the game to score a critical 6-1 road win over New Canaan, and starting pitcher Dan Warren was the one leading the charge.
Warren went the distance while permitting just two singles, issuing five walks and striking out six.
"There are definitely a lot of great hitters in that lineup. When you mix it up and keep hitters off balance, you always have a chance, and I thought our defense did an awesome job today. I couldn't have done it without them," said Warren, who also went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a pair of runs scored. "This is huge because they're a great team and they're going to be right there with us at the end."
The importance of defeating New Canaan (7-6, 5-6 FCIAC) was not lost on the Mustangs (9-4, 8-4 FCIAC), especially with such a logjam in the standings.
"We have a different level of confidence when (Warren) is on the mound because he's been so dominant this year," Warde coach Mark Caron said. "We knew that (the FCIAC playoffs) could come down to us, them and four or five other teams. The tiebreaker is head-to-head so we know that these are the kind of games we've got to win if we're going to get in this year."
New Canaan starting pitcher J.R. Anderson, who has helped keep New Canaan in several games this season, grinded out five tough innings while allowing five runs, walking three and striking out one. While it wasn't his best outing of the season, Anderson did enough to keep New Canaan within striking distance before turning it over to relief pitcher Michael Keshin, who allowed one run in his two innings of work while striking out a pair.
"J.R. had a little trouble today and typically we'd be able to pick him up, but we just haven't hit," New Canaan coach Mitch Hoffman said. "We basically told J.R. that he's been carrying us all year, and unfortunately today we didn't help you out."
After Anderson retired the first two batters of the game, the Warde lineup went to work as Danio Pugliano doubled, Warren walked and Joe Bartolomeo notched an RBI infield single. Bartolomeo stole second base and the throw sailed into centerfield, allowing Warren to come home to give Warde a 2-0 lead.
"Coming out with a lead is the best feeling because you feel like you've just got to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play," Warren said. "Six runs are plenty and I thought we were swinging the bats really well today."
Although the Warde lineup didn't produce any one monstrous inning, the Mustangs continued to take good at bats and tack onto their lead as the game progressed.
Taylor Carelli picked up an RBI single in the second to make it 3-1, Aaron Marks came through with a two-run single in the fifth and Warren gave himself another insurance run with an RBI single in the top of the seventh for the game's final run.
In total, the Mustangs outhit the Rams 10-2. Pugliano finished the day 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored, Bartolomeo went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored and Marks went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk.
New Canaan's only two hits came off the bat of Andrew Casali, who notched a pair of singles and scored his team's only run. After leading off the bottom of the first with a single and advancing to third base on a pair of throwing errors, Casali scored on an RBI groundout by Willie Burger to cut New Canaan's deficit to 2-1.
After seeing his squad drop its fourth game in its last five outings, Hoffman would like to see his hitters get a bit more aggressive at the plate.
"You've got to hit the ball. Andrew Casali had the only two hits and we're not swinging with confidence. We've got to start approaching with confidence," Hoffman said. "They took too many pitches, but that comes with young kids. We've got to make sure they're a little more aggressive."
New Canaan will attempt to turn things around on Friday when it plays host to Stamford at 4 p.m. Warde looks to keep it rolling when Trinity Catholic comes to town on Friday at 3:45 p.m.