Staub gets Westport out of a jam
TRUMBULL — One run was in, Monroe was threatening to tie the score, and a berth in the District 2 Little League Majors playoffs was in peril.
Westport’s John Staub’s mind was pretty clear, though, as he went to the mound to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam, preserving Westport’s 3-2 win Saturday morning at Unity Park.
“Just pitch,” Staub said. “I just want to win the game. I’m a competitive person.”
With a three-pitch strikeout and a comebacker, he and Westport secured a spot in the four-team, double-elimination playoffs.
“I asked him after the game, ‘Were you nervous when I gave you the ball?’ He said ‘No’ with a big smile,” Westport manager Jim Farnen said as Staub agreed. “That’s why I went to him. He’s cool as a cucumber in big spots.”
Had Westport lost, with Fairfield National and Trumbull National winning the later games, Westport would have missed the playoffs.
The win, though, gave Westport the second seed on tiebreakers. It faces Trumbull National on Monday at 5:30 p.m., with Fairfield National and defending champion Fairfield American meeting afterward, at Unity Park’s Field 1.
Monday’s losing teams meet Tuesday, while Monday’s winners meet Wednesday.
Monroe came in knowing this was its last game. Its players competed, and Greg Nivison struck out 10 Westport batters against just one walk.
“They put one more over the fence than we did,” Monroe manager Mark Hope said. “I thought we might have a chance to push one across with the bases loaded.”
On the second-to-last pitch of the game, Carson Falcone hit a dribbler down the third-base line. Third baseman Grant Ziegler picked it up just foul. Had it stayed fair, it might’ve been interesting to see if or where Ziegler had a play.
“We were praying,” Hope said, “hoping our guy would beat it out. I tip my cap to Westport.”
Lucas Mihalek had walked with the bases loaded earlier in the inning, at which Farnen called for Staub.
Westport starting pitcher Andrew Hess hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning. Nivison blasted a home run to left in the top of the fourth to cut the lead in half.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jack Farnen’s fly ball hit the top of the fence and caromed over to give Westport a run it turned out to need.
Hess struck out the side on nine pitches in the top of the third. Nivison retired the side on three pitches, a popup and two ground balls, in the bottom of the fourth.
As Westport swapped pitchers and positions, both Hess and Staub played in four different spots: pitcher, second base, third base and shortstop. Staub started at second and had returned there for the sixth before the call to the mound.
Staub said he doesn’t play first or catch, for those hoping he might get a crack at all nine positions sometime.
“A win’s a win. I’m proud of the guys. They battled. That last inning, I aged in dog years.” —Westport manager Jim Farnen
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WESTPORT 3, MONROE 2
MONROE000 101—2 3 0
WESTPORT020 01x—3 7 1
Records: Monroe 0-5; Westport 3-2. Batteries: M—Greg Nivison (L) and Drew Scalia; W—Andrew Hess (W), Grant Ziegler (4), John Staub (6, S) and Max Jossen. Home runs: M—Nivison; W—Hess, Jack Farnen.