Carter Kelsey dominates as No. 1 Staples no-hits Darien

WESTPORT — At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Staples’ senior Carter Kelsey is quite an imposing figure on the pitching mound.

So the Seton Hall commit was a natural pick to get the No. 1 Wreckers’ engines fired up again when they played their first game since winning the 2019 Class LL championship.

Kelsey struck out 12 in six innings as he and Matt Spada combined on a no-hitter in Staples’ season-opening 6-0 win over Darien Saturday in Westport.

Kelsey, who hit as high as 92 on the radar, threw 99 pitches before Spada came in and struck out the side in the seventh, giving Staples 15 strikeouts in total.

Kelsey could always throw hard, but during the past two years he’s added a final piece to the puzzle.

“It’s 100% mental,” Kelsey said. “I’ve worked on my mental game all offseason, I’ve put in so many hours on that, and that’s been the huge difference-maker for me. If I get into any dicey situations, I don’t change my mentality or the way I approach hitters.

“I’m just trying to be me, throw the ball over the plate, and keep it simple.”

“Carter’s worked hard on his craft,” Staples coach Jack McFarland said. “He’s coming on the heels of Ben Casparius (UConn) and Chad Knight (Duke) and he wants to be the next big guy. Today, I think he proved that he’s going to be a force in the league any time the ball’s in his hand.”

The Wreckers’ hitters didn’t tear the cover off the ball, but they got key hits when needed.

Justin Lessing lined a two-run single to put Staples ahead in the first inning, and Alex Oppenheimer hit a solo home run to left in the fifth.

The Wreckers added three runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Cameron Manna and JW Fitzgerald getting RBI singles.

Lessing, who also doubled in the sixth, said he’s “never seen anything like” the combined no-hitter on opening day.

“It’s awesome when you can watch a kid dominate like Carter did,” Lessing said. “The work he’s put in during the offseason really paid off. He was just excited to be out here. He took the ball and ran with it.”

For the Wave, it was a tough welcome back to baseball.

“To go up against a pitcher like that is tough for your first time out,” Darien coach Mike Scott said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to (Kelsey). He challenged us, we weren’t able to adjust and he shut us down.”

Scott was happy with the performance of Darien’s starting pitcher Karson Drake, who bounced back after a first inning in which an infield hit and an error led to two Staples’ runs. Drake struck out five and allowed two earned runs in four and one-third innings.

“I was happy that Karson came out and competed,” Scott said. “He was really good today. He had the two-seamer working low in the zone and he didn’t back down to anybody. If he gives us that kind of effort again, we’re going to be fine.”

Kelsey struck out the side in the first inning, and had two strikeouts in each of the next four frames. He added one more in the sixth, when he had a cramping issue in his non-throwing hard, and came out before the seventh, having thrown 99 pitches.

“I feel like I have two of the better pitchers in the state with Carter and Matt Spada,” McFarland said. “We knew we were going to need somebody for those last couple of outs because (Kelsey) was going to run into a high pitch count. So Matt came in and he was clean.

“If it was a little bit later in the season, I think I would’ve gone out there for the seventh, but it’s probably not worth it (today),” Kelsey said. “Me and Spada are really good friends and he dominated that last inning.

“It’s just game one. I’ve got to make sure I’m good for the rest of the season and for the playoffs and the championships.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Carter Kelsey, Staples: This is a no-brainer. Six no-hit innings, 12 strikeouts, and an opening-day victory. This one comes with an assist from Matt Spada, who put the exclamation point on the no-hitter in the seventh.

QUOTABLE

“I want to give a shout-out to Glenn Lungarini at the CIAC and (FCIAC commissioner) Dave Schulz, because nobody knows how much behind-the-scenes work they did with the pandemic and the contact tracing, just to get this season off. These kids need it bad. Win or lose today, just playing was the big thing.” — Staples coach Jack McFarland

david.stewart

@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

STAPLES 6, DARIEN 0

DARIEN 000 000 0 — 0 0 1

STAPLES 200 013 x — 6 6 0

Batteries: D - Karson Drake (L, 5Ks), Jake Horowitz (5, 2Ks), Chris Fallon (6) and Tommy Bock; S - Carter Kelsey (W, 12 Ks), Matt Spada (7, 3 Ks) and Justin Rothenberg.