The Trumbull High baseball, when push came to shove, was downright flashy when the Eagles defeated Fairfield Warde 3-1 in the FCIAC semifinals before 1,117 fans at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on Monday night.
Trumbull was seeded third, and that’s about how coach Phil Pacelli’s lunch-pail gang likes to play — steady as you go. Trumbull is solid; not overpowering.
But when they needed to be, the Eagles made spectacular plays to turn back the seventh-seeded Mustangs.
Trumbull will look for more of the same at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, when it meets Darien High for the conference title at 7 p.m. The top-seeded Blue Wave defeated Norwalk High, 5-1, in their semifinal.
Chris O’Brien was the Eagles’ first star.
A senior left-handed pitcher and team co-captain, O’Brien gave up a first-inning run and then blanked Warde the rest of the way. He had plenty of help.
Shortstop Danny Ruchalski made two eye-opening plays. The first was for show, as the junior ranged far past the second base bag to throw out Warde’s Zavier Espinel leading off the top of the second.
His second stellar play came in the sixth inning and was simply a masterpiece.
Jack Myers was on first base on a 3-2 walk when O’Brien caught the runner breaking off first. It was “In Ruchalski we trust” at this point.
First baseman Vinny DeRubeis came off the bag with the ball and fired to an open second base.. He was counting on his money shortstop to get there. The diving Ruchalski snared the one-hopper and quickly tagged the sliding Myers in one motion to end the inning.
“That was good baseball instincts all the way around,” Pacelli said. “Vinny did what he needed to do and so did Danny.”
Trumbull’s middle infielders weren’t done.
With the tying runs on base and two outs in the seventh inning, second sacker Dustin Siqueira made a full-out dive to his left to catch Myers’ bid for a base hit and end the contest.
“That was a tremendous play by Dustin,” Pacelli said. “(One thing you can count on is) he’s got a dirty uniform every game.”
In the Warde fifth, Owen Buhrendorf singled with one out. The speedy Deutsch hit a chopper to O’Brien, who threw low to DeRubeis at first base. Deutsch was safe, and Buhrendorf saw an open third base. DeRubeis fired across the diamond to Andrew Lojko at third to nail the runner.
Kris DiCocco was the hitting star for Trumbull.
With Warde pitcher John Natoli working the outside corner for strikes, DiCocco went to right field for singles in the first and third innings. He scored on O’Brien’s RBI single in the first. In the third he came home on a wild pitch to take the score to 3-1.
Warde scored its run when Joey Deutsch led off the game with a double and scored two outs later on Reece Maniscalco’s single to center.
Trumbull tied the game in the home half of the inning.
Siqueira walked and DiCocco singled one out later. Alex Rauso drove in the first run with a hard single, before O’Brien followed with Trumbull’s third hit of the frame.
Natoli bent, but never broke the rest of the way.
The senior right-hander stranded at least one runner in every inning. Trumbull’s Jack Lynch tripled in the bottom of the sixth, but the Eagles couldn’t push that extra run across, as Natoli notched his fifth strikeout to leave runners at the corners.
Dan DeBartolomeo led off the seventh with a single for the Mustang’s sixth base hit off O’Brien.
Pacelli brought Lojko in to pitch. Lojko, who had warmed up two innings earlier, got a strikeout and a fielder’s choice grounder. Deutsch walked on a 3-2 pitch, before Myers was robbed by Siqueira.