by Eliot Schickler

When the Staples baseball team needed to make a big play, someone was there to deliver in the FCIAC semifinals Thursday at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.

Fourth-seeded Staples carried this ability to a 7-6 victory over top-seeded St. Jospeh (19-3) and raised its record to 17-5, earning its fourth trip in six years to the FCIAC finals Saturday where it will face second-seeded Danbury (17-5) at Harbor Yard. This victory is Wreckers Coach Jack McFarland's 100th-career win.

"We've had some great kids in the program and each kid wants to live up the previous kids," McFarland said.

Senior quad-captain Tyler Jacobs said, "He's [McFarland] a great coach and I wanted to do it for him."

Staples also took advantage of St. Joseph junior righty John Amoroso's wildness. Although Amoroso had seven strikeouts in five innings, he also walked eight batters while surrendering four runs, three earned, on three hits. He walked senior quad-captain Ben Lipper and classmate Mikey Scott to start the game and Lipper scored on senior quad-captain Brendan Bernstein's RBI single to right field.

The Cadets hit the ball well and banged out 11 hits. They came back with two in the bottom of the first off junior righty Jimmy Kopack to take a 2-1 lead. St. Joseph senior Jerry Kramer (2-4) lined a single to right with one out and senior quad-captain Tyler Matakevich walked with two outs. Junior Alexis Guadalupe then delivered a two-run double to left.

Scott started a two-run rally in the top of the third with a leadoff single to right on an 0-2 pitch. Amoroso then walked Bernstein and senior Colin McCarthy to load the bases. It looked like he was going to escape unscathed after striking out Jacobs on a check swing 1-2 pitch and was 1-and-2 to sophomore Bryan Terzian. Just when things started to look up for him, he threw a wild pitch that scored Scott and moved the runners up. This set up Bernstein, who scored on Terzian's ground out to second base.

Cadet junior Joe Burns and Matkevich hit back-to-back singles in the third but Kopack came back and struck out Guadalupe swinging on a 3-and-2 pitch and ultimately escaped the inning unscathed.

The teams exchanged unearned runs with Staples scoring in the fourth and St. Joseph getting it back in the fifth. Kramer (2-4) and Burns (2-4) had back-to-back hits and the former scored on Jacobs' error. However, the Cadets didn't tie it because Terzian made a backhand play on a junior Jason Holcomb's grounder that had the makings of going into left field, but the Wreckers' third baseman had other plans and threw Holcomb out at first.

"That was one of the big plays of the game," McFarland said. "Bryan limited the damage. He's only a sophomore and is already a great player."

Terzian said, "I was trying to keep my focus the entire time and make the important plays."

The Wreckers began the rally for their unearned run when senior Mike McGowan led off the fourth with a routine popup to the catcher Burns. However, Burns dropped it and McGowan was safe at first on an error. McFarland then inserted junior Ben Greenberg as a pinch hitter in senior Chris Lametta's spot and Greenberg came through with a perfect bunt.

"Ben Greenberg came off the bench and helped us," McFarland said. "We did little things, which was important."

Lipper then walked and Scott reached on an error to load the bases. Bernstein then plated McGowan with a routine grounder to shortstop.

McGowan hit a single to right in the fifth and Amoroso walked two batters to load the bases, his second free pass, which went to Lametta, happened with two outs. Lipper than had a chance to break it open and hit a shot to deep right field, which Gaudalupe caught to end the inning. Staples had nine runners left on base at that point.

"It was frustrating we didn't break it open," McFarland said. "Ben hit a shot but it got caught."

Senior lefty Mitchell Paz relieved Amoroso in the sixth and the Wreckers touched him up for three runs on three hits. Scott walked and stole second to lead off and with two outs, Jacobs lined a single to left to plate Scott and took second on the throw.

"My first three at-bats were the worst of my life and my teammates picked me up," said Jacobs, who struck out three times before delivering. "After struggling in my first three at-bats, it was refreshing to see a new pitcher.

Terzian then singled to left and plated Jacobs and took second on the throw. Junior Nick Kiedaisch pinch-ran for Terzian and scored on senior quad-captain Ryan Burke's single to left to make it 7-3.

"I just tried to put the ball in play," Terzian said. "I took the two-strike approach and luckily, it went through the hole."

As it turned out, the Wreckers needed all three runs because St. Joseph came back with three in the bottom of the seventh. Senior quad-captain Chris McCormack lined a leadoff single to left but after Kopack got two outs and had Matakevich (2-4) in an 0-and-2 hole, the Cadet captain tripled to right to score McCormack. Guadalupe (2-4) singled to right to plate Matekevich and made it 7-5. Holcomb lined a single to left and senior Conor Crouse singled home senior pinch runner Jake Fulton to make it 7-6.

Kopack, for the most part, was solid on the mound and didn't allow an earned run from the second to the sixth innings. Overall, he pitched 6.67 innings and allowed six runs, five earned, on 11 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. This was his second win of the year over the Cadets.

"Last time against them, I started shaky like this one," Kopack said. "I try to keep it low, throw strikes and make them swing."

McFarland then flip-flopped Kopack and the righty Terzian and the latter induced senior Alex Carboni to ground out to Jacobs at shortstop, who made the perfect throw to McCarthy at first to nail him for the final out. If Carboni beat it, Holcomb would have scored.

"It was a big situation and I tried to throw strikes," Terzian said.