The Darien-New Canaan Senior Legion baseball team took an early lead against second-place Trumbull Monday, but failed to hold on in an eventual 5-3 defeat at Darien High School. Darien's Stephen Barston took the loss on the hill, his team's sixth straight overall, as Trumbull reeled off four consecutive singles in the third and sixth innings, frames that led to four runs. After leading off the fourth inning with a single, Stanley Wolpiuk came around to score Trumbull's only other run of the game.
New Canaan native and third baseman Erik Jager reached base twice, notching a run and an RBI amidst a number of fine plays in the field.
"It's been tough," said Darien-New Canaan coach Jason Schofield of his team's recent stretch. "We have a couple guys banged up and a couple guys that have missed some games for vacation and things like that. Our lineup's been a little inconsistent. But I feel like July should be better because most people will be back."
Southpaw starter Joe Nemcheck, the youngest player on Trumbull's squad who normally serves as a reliever, tossed six strong innings, surrendering one earned run as he nailed down six strikeouts. Courtesy of a dropped flyball in right field, Darien-New Canaan was allowed a pair of first-inning runs without recording a hit. Two frames later, Jager knocked in his team's final run of the game on a single to left, scoring shortstop Matt Toth.
However, when Darien-New Canaan placed two runners in scoring position with two outs and the top of its order coming up in the fourth, it appeared the home team would be able to reclaim its early lead. Down 4-3, leadoff hitter Nick Cascione was then intentionally walked to load the bases, and catcher Brandon Abate struck out , moments after fouling a hard inside pitch off his foot.
"He went in and out on us for almost every batter and the guys knew it. But it's always difficult to hit that, especially since we haven't seen a lot of lefties this year," Schofield said. "And he's good. He's one of their better pitchers."
The team traded scoreless half-innings to wrap up the fifth frame, when Trumbull cashed in for an insurance run during a two-out rally in the sixth. Barston yielded another string of four consecutive base hits, before managing to strand three runners when Luke Waldek flew out to center.
"Usually, I was leaving a fastball up more than anything," Barston said of his struggles.
From the opposing dugout, Trumbull coach Brett Conner attributed his team's success to a collective toughness his team showed after playing nearly a half-dozen games over the weekend in Rhode Island.
"It was easy to come here and be tired and make excuses, but they battled," Conner said. "We have a lot of leadership, a lot of experience on our team. They're tough kids. They took the game for granted early on, but they responded with energy and pulled it together."
Abate and Toth stroked back-to-back singles to the right side in the bottom of the seventh, but Trumbull closer Brian Hnatuk shut the door by inducing tough outs from Jager and right fielder Brian Moran.
Post-game, Barston pointed to his team's recent inability to take advantage of key offensive opportunities as a point of contention if Darien-New Canaan is to get back on track.
"I think we just need to string some more hits together and drive in runners with scoring position," Barston said. "This series coming up with Wilton is definitely crucial. I think we need to sweep them."
Trumbull completed a two-game season sweep of Darien-New Canaan, after beating its host 15-5 in the season opener one month earlier.
Key starters Ames Murray, Brendan Donohue, JR Anderson and Dan Rajkowski were not present for Darien-New Canaan.