TRUMBULL--Staples sophomore Noah Yokoi caught almost every game for the Wreckers last season. While senior Adam Dulsky took over duties behind the plate for 2014, Yokoi has enjoyed a stellar spring the plate and delivered another clutch hit to help send Staples to its seventh straight win.
Rob Vallone fired a two-hitter and Bryan Porter broke a 0-0 tie in the top of the sixth with a two-run single as the Wreckers shut out host St. Joseph 5-0 on Monday afternoon. Staples maintained its one and a half game lead atop the FCIAC with the win.
"Noah, in my mind, is the best hitter in the FCIAC," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "He's just impressive up there. He just stands up there and hits the ball. He's in a real groove at the plate."
Yokoi went 3-for-4 for the Wreckers (13-3, 12-2), including hitting an RBI double down the left field line off St. Joseph starter Jake Amoroso to push the Staples lead to 3-0 in the seventh inning.
"It was a fastball up and inside, a 3-2 (count)," Yokoi said. "I was guessing fastball; I saw the runners moving and I just wanted to put the ball in play; I got lucky and hit the ball."
Vallone hit three batters and walked two others, but kept the Cadets hitters off balance and got outstanding play from his defense. Vallone improved to 3-1 on the season.
"(Vallone is) just wild enough where hitters can't get a beat on him," McFarland said. "They don't know what he's going to do next. He's wild in the zone enough that makes him hard to hit; hard for kids to square up."
Amoroso, who pitched six and two thirds innings, took the hard luck loss for the Cadets. He matched Vallone zero-for-zero until defensive miscues got Staples on the board, including back-to-back errors that set the stage for Porter's heroics. The Cadets committed five errors Monday.
"I thought (Amoroso) threw excellent," St. Joseph coach Jim Chaves said. "We just didn't give him any support. It looked like it was going to be a 1-0, 2-0 game, but obviously we imploded there. It's unfortunate because I thought he had real good stuff."
Staples finally broke through in the top of the sixth inning behind a pair of St. Joe's throwing errors to first base and a clutch hit. With runners on second and third with one out, Porter smashed a single to the outfield to plate both runs.
"Both pitchers threw the heck out of the ball," McFarland said. "Our defense stood up and made all the plays, and that's impressive on the road. We got some timely hits and that's the difference in a game like this between two good teams."
The Cadets stranded four runners in the first four innings, and had runners on first and second with no outs in the second and third frames. St. Joseph couldn't convert on those chances as the Wreckers turned a pair of double plays in the first three innings.
"You have to tip your cap to (Vallone)," Chaves said. "He kept us off balance. Early on he put some lead-off guys on. I thought we had an opportunity to score early on; we just couldn't get the big hit. Give credit to him on the mound."
Next up for St. Joseph (8-6, 8-4), which dropped into a tie in fourth place in the FCIAC, is a visit from New Canaan Tuesday.
"We knew when the schedule came out that this was going to be a tough stretch," Chaves said. "I expect these guys to bounce back and give a good effort tomorrow, but New Canaan is a good ball club."
STAPLES 000 002 3 -- 5 8 0
ST. JOSEPH 000 000 0 -- 0 2 5
Records: Staples 13-3, 12-2 FCIAC; St. Joseph 8-6, 8-4.
Batteries: SJ--Jake Amoroso (L), Sam Dunkel and Ishmael Herrera. S--Rob Vallone (W) and Adam Dulsky.
Highlights: S--Noah Yokoi went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Vallone threw a complete game shutout, allowing two hits and two walks.