Sophomore hurlers leading Staples baseball into postseason
Updated 5:11 am, Thursday, May 21, 2015
When No. 1 starter and senior Ian Burns went down with an injury early in the season, the Staples baseball team all of a sudden lacked quality pitching depth.
Well, that is, until a trio of sophomores rose to the occasion and took the league by storm.
The transition was virtually seamless, as Ben Casparius, Ryan Fitton and Mike Fanning ate up quality innings this spring and will lead the Wreckers into the postseason, which begins Tuesday. The three starters are a combined 10-2 and will lead the youngest rotation in recent memory into the postseason, according to Staples coach Jack McFarland.
"We've had David Speer pitch us to an FCIAC championship in 2008 against Westhill as a sophomore," McFarland said. "We've had one kid in the past but never three or four like this year."
The Wreckers have allowed 46 runs in 19 games -- 2.42 runs per game, the fewest in the FCIAC -- and just 35 runs in 17 FCIAC games largely in part due the contributions from their underclassmen.
All three have different pitching styles and contributed to the team at different stages.
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Entering the varsity program as a freshman, there were high expectations for Casparius, a flamethrower who was a part of a variety of AAU teams that excelled at regional and national competitions. He immediately settled into a role in the middle of the lineup at third base, and would earn more innings out of the bullpen as the season progressed.
"Last year was tough because he was a freshman and he had to earn his stripes at the plate and with his teammates," McFarland said. "This year was easier because he already had a year under his belt."
Casparius shifted to shortstop this year after the departure of All-FCIAC first team standout Sam Ellinwood, and didn't make his first start on the mound until the team's fifth game in a preservation attempted by McFarland. In his first start, Casparius went eight innings and allowed three runs as Staples beat St. Joseph 4-3 in extras.
Casparius then won games against the FCIAC's top two teams at the time -- Darien and New Canaan -- to propel the Wreckers up the standings. He has 31 strikeouts in 26 innings will have 10 days of rest ahead of the FCIAC quarterfinals.
"Other pitchers in the league have a lot of wear and tear and a lot of innings," McFarland said. "We think (Casparius) going into the playoffs fresh as a daisy, at shortstop, at the plate and on the mound. He's going to be a triple threat for us."
Fitton, a six-foot-five athlete with a smooth delivery, was unsure of whether he would be in the rotation at the start of the season, but it didn't take long to conclude that he would stay. He allowed four runs in the first inning of the season opener, but settled in and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his subsequent six starts.
"Ryan throws a real heavy ball and gets a lot of ground balls," McFarland said. "He had a great preseason and we put him out there Opening Day, he struggled a little bit but he made the adjustments and is doing a great job."
Fitton, who also plays tight end and punts for the football team, threw a no-hitter against Greenwich in his third start as part of a scoreless streak of 18 innings. Division I scouts are already noticing both Casparius and Fitton, according to McFarland.
"(The no hitter) was amazing," Fitton said. "It was just my third start and I had no idea it was going on during the game. I'm just trying to the best for the team."
Fanning is six-foot-six -- leading McFarland to dub him and Fitton the twin towers -- and was in a battle for playing time in the field and on the mound. He plays third base on some days he doesn't pitch and has made a vital contribution.
"He plays a great third base, he can swing the bat," McFarland said. "He's done a great job for us; he's more of a curveball-fastball guy, he's so long the ball gets on you quicker than you think.
Fanning started the second game of the season against Masuk, and went on to make three more starts for the Wreckers, including in wins over Ridgefield and Trinity Catholic.
"I thought I would just be coming out of the bullpen," Fanning said. "I was nervous before the Masuk game, but Ian Burns talked to me and calmed me down and it really helped."
The trio is just part of a strong pipeline in town that gives the Wreckers an incredibly bright future.
"In coming years it will be exciting," Casparius said. "It's huge for us as sophomores; we have two more years together and it will be cool to see how our development continues."
For now, the primary goal for all three is to deliver the Wreckers a first FCIAC title since 2011.
"We want to win a championship," Casparius said. "We have to keep playing hard, I think we're going to get it done this year; we have a great team."