New Canaan baseball team falls to Fitch in state championship game
MIDDLETOWN -- Throughout the regular season, the New Canaan High baseball team lamented over freak injuries, frustrating losses and bad breaks. The Rams figured their luck would change come state tournament time.
And they were right ... for four games and 5 ½ innings of a fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday's Class L state final against Fitch, with the 24th-seeded Rams leading by one, the postseason run of good fortune ended.
A two out bad-hop single ignited a three-run Fitch rally that gave the third-seeded Falcons a 6-4 victory at Palmer Field.
"The bad hop hurt," NC coach Mitch Hoffman said. "After that, I could see it all unraveling."
After a two-out RBI single by Nick Cascione gave the Rams a lead in the top of the sixth, New Canaan pitcher Dan Rajkowski took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the frame. With two outs and none on, Fitch's Zach Wolfgang hit a chopper toward third baseman Willie Burger, but the ball bounced high and off his shoulder.
"I haven't been fielding well lately so right away I was a little nervous," Burger said. "It took a bad hop but I wasn't in position to field it. We should have been out of the inning with no runs."
Burger was being hard on himself as the ball was ruled a hit. But the play reminded the Rams (14-11) of their bad break-filled regular season.
"It was a bad hop, but bad stuff happens," Rajkowski said. "After that I knew I couldn't think of it too much. But bad hops, infield singles ... it's tough to come back from that."
The way the game began, luck seemed still on the Rams' side. Two botched bunts by Fitch (24-3) led to three runs against winning pitcher Shawn Nadeau. Burger's two-run triple was NC's only hit of the inning.
"I'd much rather that happen in the first inning than the sixth or seventh," Fitch coach Marc Peluso said. "The jitters got to us early but we stepped up when we needed to."
Fitch rallied in the third when Aaron Hill's triple led to two runs. A throwing error allowed Fitch to tie it in the fourth.
But when Cascione singled in Rajkowski in the sixth, the countdown to NC's first state title had begun (the Rams were named 1950 state champs but the CIAC did not recognize state champions between 1941 and 1954).
And then came what will be forever remembered as The Bad Hop.
"It's better to appreciate the bad stuff now and get hungry from it," Hoffman said of his young team that included just two senior starters.
Burger, Cascione, Rajkowski and Grady Amrheim had hits for the Rams. Hill and Conley had two hits each for Fitch.
Fitch 6, New Canaan 4
NEW CANAAN 300 001 0--4 4 3
FITCH 002 103 X--6 10 2
Records: New Canaan 14-11; Fitch 24-3.
Batteries: NC--Dan Rajkowski (L) and Casey Ouelette; F--Shawn Nadeau (W) and Zach Wolfgang. Doubles: none. Triples: NC--Willie Burger, Grady Amrhein; F--Aaron Hill, Chris Corum Giles. Home Runs: none.