Casparius' 1-hitter sends Staples to FCIAC baseball semifinals
Updated 6:57 am, Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Because almost every team has an ace capable of shutting down a lineup, the first round of the FCAIC baseball tournament is often the most difficult game in the tournament to win.
Two aces were on the mound Tuesday as Staples' Ben Casparius and Warde's Reece Maniscalco aimed to keep their respective hopes for a championship alive, and the Wreckers sophomore star delivered a championship-worthy performance.
The Wreckers plated three runs on one hit in the first inning, and it was all the offense they would need as Casparius fired a one-hitter in a 3-0 win over defending FCIAC champion Warde. No. 2 Staples moved on to Wednesday's semifinals, where they will meet No. 6 Trinity Catholic at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
"This is what we've been dreaming of the entire season, getting to Harbor Yard and we finally did that," Casparius said. "If we play the way we are, we're not going to lose another game."
A one-out single in the top of the first inning by Nick Nardone was the only hit that Casparius allowed. The Wreckers (17-4) allowed the fewest runs in the league in the regular season and extended their winning streak to nine games.
"We forced our way into that No. 2 seed by winning at Darien and at Norwalk," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "These are the best teams in the league and we took them all out. We earned where we are at right now."
Nathan Panzer led off the bottom of the first with a triple and scored four batters later when Zach Azadian was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Ross Poulley then walked and drove in a run, and Eric Hawes had a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
That was the last of the scoring for the game as Casparius, who struck out 10, was in top form.
"When you're up 3-0 with your top kid on the mound, you're in great shape," McFarland said. "He was mixing his pitches; (Warde) is a scrappy team; they know how to get the bat on the ball and (Casparius) had swing-and-miss stuff today."
John Natoli, who one-hit the Wreckers in a 1-0 win last month, relieved Maniscalco -- a junior who recently committed to Wofford College on threw a no-hitter in his last start -- after he hit a batter in the fourth inning, and pitched two-and-two-thirds shutout innings.
"We basically have two No. 1 (pitchers) in my opinion," Warde coach Mark Caron said. "When it was obvious (Maniscalco) wasn't at his best, why wait to bring (Natoli) in. John pitched well for us."
The Wreckers ran into a number of outs on the base paths in the middle of innings looking to add to their lead. Staples had just four hits, but Warde pitching hit four Staples batters and walked five more. The stranded runners didn't cost Staples with the Mustangs unable to generate any offense against the team they upset in last year's Class LL tournament as a No. 15 seed.
"Offensively (Casparius) shut us down, all they needed was one run today," Caron said. "I thought defensively we played well; we grinded it on the mound and kept the game close, but offensively we didn't have great at-bats. ... Offensively we've been in a funk in the second half of the season."
In the opposite dugout, Staples is rounding into form with a championship in sight.
STAPLES 3, WARDE 0
WARDE 000 000 0 -- 0 1 0
STAPLES 300 000 X -- 3 4 0
Records: Warde 14-7, 12-7 FCIAC; Staples 17-4, 15-4. Batteries: W--Reece Maniscalco (L, 3-3), John Natoli and Natoli, Daniel BeBartolomeo; S-- Ben Casparius (W, 5-0) and Phil McGovern.