NEW CANAAN -- Doug Reilly knew sooner or later his team's luck had to change.
The New Canaan High senior infielder first saw a rash of freak injuries hit the team, then watched as a pickoff throw that had a Stamford High baserunner dead to rights bounce off the player's helmet to cost the Rams the game. Then, in the final home game of the regular season, Reilly got hit in the knee with a ball.
"All year long we didn't get the breaks," Reilly said Thursday. "It was frustrating. But recently, I guess things have gone our way. It's about time."
The Rams, with two senior starters, were once 7-8 and virtually left for dead. But after four consecutive state tournament victories, they will play for the Class L state championship Saturday at noon against Fitch at Palmer Field in Middletown.
"We had our share of injuries and bad breaks," Rams third-year coach Mitch Hoffman said. "But I think not making the (FCIAC) playoffs gave us a break and allowed us to do some soul searching. They asked themselves, `Do we want to go out like this, or do we want to put up a fight?'
"I credit Doug Reilly. He's the ultimate captain and he said before the states that he wanted to leave it all on the field. He's a senior playing in the state championship game, so I guess he's going to be leaving it all on the field."
The Rams (14-10), seeded 24th, started 6-2 before losing six of seven. They won three of five before the states, and then beat No. 9 Branford (9-2), No. 8 Maloney (5-3), No. 16 Hand (6-2) and No. 21 Sheehan (8-4). Their luck has indeed changed as they avoided the No. 1 seed (Cheney Tech) in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Waterford in the semis. Now they get No. 3 Fitch (23-3) in the final. It's New Canaan's first state final appearance since losing in 1972.
"That first game in the states got us turned around," Reilly said. "We scored two runs in the first inning, everybody was hitting and it was our first real complete game. Now we don't think we can lose."
While Andrew Casali, Casey Ouelette, Willie Burger and Reilly will lead the offense, Dan Rajkowski will pitch Saturday. Since Hoffman moved his ace Casali into the bullpen, it has been sophomores Rajkowski and J.R. Anderson who have pitched the Rams into the final.
Rajkowski, however, must be sharp Saturday if the Rams hope to win the school's first state title since 1950. Fitch has won 22 of its last 23 games, allowing just two runs in four state games.
"Fitch is solid and has a history of winning," said Hoffman who got the Rams to the state semifinals last season. "They have a great record but everybody we've played in the states has been better than us, record-wise, right? So, we'll see what happens."