Baseball: Darien wins FCIAC championship in eight innings
By Scott EricsonUpdated
STAMFORD — Darien senior Arthur Xanthos watched from the on-deck circle as Sean O’Malley was intentionally walked ahead of him in the top of the eighth of a tie game, loading the bases.
Striding to the plate, Xanthos said he felt something come over him and knew he was going to deliver a big hit.
That is exactly what the Blue Wave catcher did, ripping a single to left field, scoring Justin Jordan from third base with the go-ahead run.
No. 4 Darien would add two more in the eighth on a single by Mac McLean, delivering the Blue Wave to the FCIAC championship with a 7-4 win over No. 2 Staples.
“That was the cockiest walk to the plate I’ve ever made in my life and I thought ‘I’d better come through with this hit,’ ” Xanthos said. “This is the best feeling I have ever had in my life.”
It is the second title for Darien in the last three seasons, having also won it all in 2016.
The game was in extra innings after Staples rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth, tying the game.
Staples had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth but Jackson Vaught came on in relief, escaping a bases-loaded jam.
Staples coach Jack McFarland said he was proud of how his team fought back but that Darien was able to come up with a few more clutch hits.
“They’re champions, and being down 4-1 was not the issue. The issue was this was a three-day tournament and you get into your pitching a little bit,” McFarland said. “This team has been through a lot going through a state championship run last year. They got the big hits tonight and we didn’t and that’s single-elimination baseball.”
Staples struck early, scratching out a run in the bottom of the first inning.
After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Drew Rogers stole second base with two outs, coming around to score a bloop single down the right-field line by Matt Stone.
Darien got its offense going in the top of the fourth, scoring three times in the frame.
Harry Rayhill drove in the first run with a single to right, scoring Xanthos.
Justin Van de Graaf then got down a safety squeeze with Max Gasvoda scampering home.
The Blue Wave got their third run on a bloop hit to center by Fin Batson who hustled into second for a double as Rayhill was crossing the plate.
Batson had three doubles on the night hitting out of the No. 9 spot.
Rayhill struck again an inning later, plating Sean O’Malley with a sharp single up the middle, making it 4-1 Darien in the fifth.
Staples rallied, tying the game in the fifth with three runs.
Chad Knight doubled off the right-field fence, scoring Kevin Rabacs.
Knight later came in to score the tying run on a single to left by Stone.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Arthur Xanthos, Darien. Xanthos was named MVP of the game, going 3 for 5 with a run scored and the game-winning RBI.
“(Xanthos) has been waiting three years for a shot and he was named captain for a reason, and to have him come through in that spot means everything and he deserves it,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “It’s pretty incredible; to have not won a championship for 35 years and then to get two in three years says a lot about how far this program has come. Justin Jordan and Sean O’Malley were starters on that team two years ago and for them to get two solidifies their legacy as Darien baseball players.”
DARIEN 7, STAPLES 4 (8)
DARIEN 000 310 03—7 13 1
STAPLES 100 030 00—4 8 0
Records: D—16-6; S—16-5. Batteries: D—Justin Van de Graaf, Jackson Vaught (W) and Arthur Xanthos; S—Russ Krauss, Max Popken (4), Alec Burns (5), Alex Cheema (L, 7) and Matt Stone