Baseball: Darien's win over Trumbull passes greatness test

A true gauge on how to measure a great baseball game is made up of two components.

The first — how hard did one team have to work to get the desired result.

The second — how difficult did said team make it for the eventual winning team to overcome that effort.

That said, it was a great baseball game when Darien High defeated Trumbull High 3-2 in eight innings to win the FCIAC championship before a large bi-partisan crowd at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on Wednesday night.

Darien’s Sean O’Malley lofted a fly ball single to deep left field with the bases loaded and two out to score Mark Schmidt and give head coach Mike Scott’s top-seeded Blue Wave (20-3) the conference title.

Tied at 1-1 after regulation, Trumbull (17-8) had taken the lead on Kris DiCocco’s two-out single in the top of the eighth inning.

Needing an answer, Schmidt opened the home half of the frame with a single off Trumbull relief pitcher Dan Keckler.

The Blue Wave’s Matt Drake then looked to advance the runner with a bunt. He got more than he bargained for, as the well-placed ball was bobbled and both runners were safe.

Trumbull head coach Phil Pacelli brought Andrew Lojko in to pitch. Lojko made a great play on Justin Jordan’s bunt up the third base line to get the out at first.

Jimmy Schofield then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left field. Drake went to third on the play. With two out, Trumbull countered by intentionally walking Rich Brereton and Casey Brown.

That not only loaded the bases, making for a play at any base, but also took the bat out of the duo’s hands. Brereton had tripled in the first inning and scored on Brown’s double to account for Darien’s only run through seven.

O’Malley, who had walked, flied out to center, popped out to shortstop and struck out against Trumbull starter Joe Nemchek, took an outside pitch from Lojko and drilled it over the head of a fast-closing Alex Rauso to plate Schmidt.

“Hats off to Darien,” Pacelli said. “They could have folded (when the third-seeded Eagles took the lead). They battled. That’s what they’ve done all year.”

Nemchek, after giving up the first-inning run, in a frame where got all three outs on strikes, was a warrior on the hill. Nemchek used 10 strikeouts and stellar defense to keep Darien off the board, even though the Blue Wave had six hits, six walks and had a hit batter reach after being hit by a pitch. Nemchek left 11 runners stranded, including seven in the first three innings when he put the third out in the book in each instance on strikes.

“That’s Joe,” Pacelli said of his left-handed senior. “He’s a bulldog. He wiggles his way out of trouble. We couldn’t have asked for any more.”

Brereton, who was named tournament MVP, matched Nemchek with six shutout innings of his own. A right-hander, Brereton allowed six hits, struck out five and walked two. He also hit a batter.

“Brereton had his off-speed pitches working,” Pacelli said. “They were matching each other every inning. It was a tremendous job by both pitchers.”

Trumbull tied the game in the top of the third inning.

Dustin Siqueira was hit by a pitch with one out. He went to second on Lojko’s groundout and scored when DiCocco ripped an RBI single down the left field line.

DiCocco again stood tall in the top of the eighth.

Lojko singled to open the inning. He stole second and went to third when the throw from O’Malley behind the plate was to the right side of the second base bag and carried into the outfield.

DiCocco then stayed back on a 2-2 pitch from Brereton and lined it through the hole into right field.  “Kris was clutch tonight, and he’s been clutch for us all year,” Pacelli said. “That was a big spot.”

Trumbull was three outs away from earning the title. Darien had to choose fight or flight.

The Blue Wave decided to stand their ground and go out as champions.