BASEBALL: Weather forces teams into 5-game weeks
The Darien baseball team was ahead of everyone early in the season in terms of games played because of its artificial turf field.
In fact, Darien had played five games before several teams in the state had played any early in April.
The Blue Wave even played a game scheduled for the road against Guilford on their home turf just so the game could be played on time.
That smooth sailing came to an end for the Blue Wave last week when they played just one game on Monday before having several road contests postponed.
That left Darien in the position of having to play five games this week, going every day from Monday to Friday.
Darien is not alone, Westhill and St. Joseph also are playing five games this week with many other schools playing four.
The major-league like schedule of playing nearly every day has thrown pitching staffs already hampered by pitch counts into disarray.
On the other hand, hitters seem to love the repetition of daily live at-bats.
Darien has done well, winning its first three games of the five-game run but it has not been easy.
It started with a 10-inning, 5-4 thriller against Warde Monday followed by a 3-2 walk-off win against Wilton Tuesday and a 4-3 victory over Ludlowe Wednesday.
Darien’s pitching staff has been up to the task, but it has not been easy and it is not over with games against two of the FCIAC’s best in Ridgefield and Staples coming up Thursday and Friday.
“A schedule like this is going to take its toll on the pitching staff,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “I don’t know where we are going to stand at the end of the week but we are not worried about this. We are just going to go one game at a time and not look at it like five days but just focus on the game in front of us.”
Westhill has had a rougher go, losing to Staples and Trumbull by a combined 14-0 before the bats woke up in a 10-5 win over Greenwich Wednesday.
Games with Ludlowe and St. Joe’s loom the rest of the week for the Vikings.
Westhill’s best pitcher, John MacDonald, pitched Monday against Staples and will likely be called upon to start again this week, despite it meaning less rest between starts than he’s accustom to.
“The toughest part is just mapping out pitching. It’s hard not to look ahead and see where guys line up but it’s tough for us trying to match up guys and still keep them fresh and on a regular schedule,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said “Mac (John MacDonald) threw Monday and he hasn’t thrown all year on less than six-days’ rest. It’s tough trying to work out the kinks with the pitching.”
Coaches may need to leave pitchers in games even if they are giving up runs, just to preserve pitch counts for later in the week.
That has led to some big offensive innings this week as coaches hesitate to use too many relievers in one game.
Along with the big innings off pitchers who don’t not have it that day, the hitters love getting daily at-bats in real games and are getting in grooves at the plate.
“Seeing a lot of pitches definitely helps with your timing. You just have to make sure you are on top of everything every day in the way you play,” Westhill junior centerfielder Bobby Zmarzlak said “I’ve been making adjustments and that’s easier with more at- bats. I’m shortening up more on the ball, trying not to be too long. Before, I was a little long and that’s why I was popping up.”
St. Joseph was so desperate to get games in, it moved a game not only to a Sunday but switched the location to play at Stamford High.
The Cadets (9-4) played only their second home game of season Wednesday in a loss against rival Trumbull.
St. Joe’s beat Stamford and Harding with games against Ridgefield and Westhill on deck this week.
It is not ideal for pitchers and it rarely happens where teams need to play so many games in a week, but the players all seem to be embracing it and having fun.
“This is the first time I have ever done it. For most of the guys it’s the first time playing so many games in a week” Darien senior shortstop and pitcher Henry Williams said “It really shows how good of a team you are. It’s not about individual efforts, it’s about coming together each day and bouncing back, even when you are tired.”
One thing is for sure, the teams that are running this gauntlet now will be battle-tested for the grind of the playoffs coming up in a couple weeks.