Vartuli's pinch-hit single carries Staples baseball past Westhill
WESTPORT -- For five innings on Thursday, Staples High's offense came on one swing from right fielder Matt Smith.
In the sixth, the Wreckers took advantage of a little help and made some more noise at bat.
Frank Vartuli's pinch-hit RBI single with one out keyed a four-run sixth and lifted the Wreckers to a 6-2 win over visiting Westhill.
The Wreckers, who began the day eighth in FCIAC baseball with five games remaining, improved to 10-6 (8-8 in conference). The Vikings fell to 6-10 (6-8) and dropped further down in the playoff hunt.
"They're all big now," Staples coach Jack McFarland said, referencing his team's win. "We're just playing one game at a time. We're treating every game like it's an elimination game. We're not looking at tomorrow or ahead."
Batting with the bases loaded and one out, the right-handed Vartuli went the other way on a first-pitch fastball from Luke Dawson, flicking it into right for a 3-2 lead. Dawson, who walked two batters and hit another to load the bases in his first inning of relief, saw the deficit grow to 4-2 on a fielding error. Another hit batter and a walk by James Frusciante -- both with the bases loaded -- extended the Wreckers' lead to 6-2.
"Luke struggled a little bit, but again, I trust him in that situation," Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. "You've got to give Jack and his team credit."
Vartuli's single was the lone hit in the inning -- and one of just six in the game -- for Staples, but it was enough.
"I just tried keeping it loose. I just wanted to swing at the first fastball I got because I knew he was throwing a lot of curveballs," Vartuli said. "The first one I just jumped on."
Coming in off two straight wins, Staples struggled to piece together offense for much of the afternoon against Westhill starter Sean Remondino. Smith accounted for the Wreckers' early offense with a two-run home run in the first inning.
"He's our No. 4 hitter. That's the kind of extra-base hits we expect out of him," McFarland said.
Westhill had plenty of its own struggles at the plate early, scoring just one run through the first five innings off right-hander Ryder Chasin. Trailing 2-1, the Vikings tied it in the sixth after putting runners on second and third with one out against Chasin.
Chasin, who allowed a run in the second inning, surrendered just five hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Both teams will make a quick turnaround with challenges on Friday. Staples will visit Greenwich (13-2, 12-1) at 4 p.m., while Westhill will be at New Canaan (13-2, 11-2) at the same time.
Realizing that the opportunity for a postseason run is narrowing, Mulvany called Thursday's loss "big."
"It's bittersweet because we played a good baseball game until that sixth inning," Mulvany said. "It would've been nice to come out of here with a win and keep things going with the tough schedule that we have."
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STAPLES 6, WESTHILL 2
WESTHILL 010 001 0 -- 2 5 1
STAPLES 200 004 x -- 6 6 1
Records: Westhill 6-10, 6-8 FCIAC; Staples 10-6, 8-6.
Batteries: W -- Sean Remondino, Luke Dawson (6, L) and Joey DePreta. S -- Ryder Chasin, Alec Johnson (6, W) and Noah Yokoi.
Highlights: W -- John Spoto tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. S -- Matt Smith hit a two-run home run. Frank Vartuli hit a pinch-hit go-ahead RBI single.