NEW CANAAN -- Often at Mead Park a train whistle can be heard in the distance, providing a nice touch to a beautiful venue. So it was the perfect setting for combatants Stamford High and New Canaan, who were the proverbial trains passing in the night Saturday.
That was Stamford chugging along on the northbound track as the Black Knights entered the FCIAC post-season discussion with a 6-3 victory over the host Rams. It was the fifth win in seven games for the Knights (7-7, 6-6 FCIAC).
"We're in the hunt now," Stamford coach Fred Kelley said. The Knights pulled within one game of Fairfield Ludlowe for the eighth and final playoff spot with six games remaining. "In this league, if you can just get in, anything can happen. Beating New Canaan was big. A lot of people picked them to win it all."
But the Rams have been heading south the last couple of weeks. Saturday's loss was their fifth in six games as they fell to 5-7 in the league and 7-7 overall.
"It's going to be tough for us now," coach Mitch Hoffman said. "I think for us to make the playoffs, we have to win out, AND get help."
The problem for the Rams lately has been hitting. The three runs Saturday gave them eight during the six-game slide for an under whelming average of 1.3 runs per game.
"Unfortunately our youth is catching up to us; I'm starting to see some doubts in the batter's box," Hoffman said.
The Rams have just two senior starters and facing SHS lefty Tyler Curto certainly didn't help.
"Curto was very sharp," Kelley said. "I have confidence in him. He has that fire in his belly."
Curto shut out the Rams on two hits through five innings. He got offensive support when the Knights scored four in the fifth off NC starter Dan Rajkowski. Travis Docimo, Louis Lopez, Chandler Foster (three hits) and Matt Sciarretta (three hits, two RBI) had hits in the inning, but the key play came with the bases loaded and two outs and just one run in.
New Canaan catcher Willie Burger tried to pick off the runner at first, Steve D'Annolfo, but his throw hit D'Annolfo in the helmet and bounced out of play allowing two runs to score. The fourth run then scored on Sciarretta's single.
Down 4-0, the Rams got a lift when Kelley removed Curto after a hit batsman and an RBI double by Doug Reily (two hits) in the sixth.
"The gameplan was to use D'Annolfo to close it out," Kelley said. "Curto had thrown 75 pitches and I noticed that he was starting to drop his elbow on his pitches."
D'Annolfo allowed an RBI single by Gogo Jones (two hits) later in the sixth, and then gave up a run in the seventh after hits by Rajkowski and Nick Cassione and a sacrifice fly by Andrew Casali. Fortunately for the Knights, however, they got two runs of their own in the top of the seventh off reliever Mike Keshin on hits by Foster, D'Annolfo and Sciarretta.
Stamford 6, New Canaan 3
STAMFORD 000 040 2--6 10 1
NEW CANAAN 000 002 1--3 6 2
Records: Stamford 7-7, 6-6 FCIAC; New Canaan 7-7, 5-7.
Batteries: S--Tyler Curto (W, 3-2), Steve D'Annolfo (6, S, 2) and Chris DiPietro; NC--Dan Rajkowski (L, 3-1), Mike Keshin (7) and Willie Burger.
Doubles--Doug Reily, Nick Cassione. Triples--none. Home Runs--none.