Trumbull edges Staples in FCIAC semis
Two weeks ago, the Trumbull baseball team was in serious danger of missing the FCIAC playoffs altogether.
Thanks to another string of brilliant pitching by Gerard Speigel and Colin Keyes and a clutch hit by senior third-baseman Casey Mack, the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles are now one win away from taking home a championship.
Speigel and Keyes combined on 10 shutout innings and Mack delivered the only RBI of the game with a single in the top of the 10th as Trumbull edged defending champion
Staples 1-0 in a thrilling start to the FCIAC semifinals Thursday night at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.
It was the second time in two days Trumbull needed extra innings to advance, beating town-rival St. Joseph 1-0 in eight innings in a first-round heart-thumper on Wednesday.
“This is definitely not good for my blood pressure,” Trumbull head coach Phil Pacelli said.
Speigel, a junior right-hander, scattered eight hits over the first seven innings, battling through the pain after being hit in the thumb with a line drive in the first inning and battling the sixth-seeded Wreckers (15-7) through 125 pitches.
Keyes (4-1), a sturdy sophomore who drove in the winning run against St. Joseph on Wednesday, pitched three hitless innings of relief to pick up the victory.
Trumbull, which is still waiting on an opponent for Saturday’s championship game after the second semifinal between Greenwich and McMahon was suspended due to rain, has not allowed a run in 19 innings dating back to its playoff-clinching, walk-off victory against Trinity Catholic in the regular-season finale.
Senior ace Mike Yerina threw all eight innings of the shutout win against the Cadets.
The championship game will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Harbor Yard.
Trumbull earned its way into the playoffs by virtue of its win against Trinity, which came courtesy of a two-out, two-run single by Joey Forren. Since then, the Golden Eagles have been nearly unstoppable.
“Our pitching has been outstanding,” Pacelli said. “We’ve really been playing well since then.”
Staples, which had won three of the last four FCIAC titles, received solid pitching of its own from junior left-hander Chris Speer and junior righty Greg Salamone, who combined to allow just four hits over the first nine innings.
Speer is the younger brother of David Speer, who knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.
“We definitely had some flashbacks when we heard that name,” Pacelli said. “He threw well. He threw a great game himself.”
Salamone (2-2), who went into the game with six saves on the season, relieved Speer with one on and no outs in the fifth, retired the next three batters in order then allowed just one hit over the next four innings.
“He’s been doing that all year for us,” Staples head coach Jack McFarland said.
The Golden Eagles finally broke the deadlock in the top of the 10th as shortstop Marcus Jenkins led off with a single to left and advanced to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Mack lined an 0-2 pitch into center field to bring home Jenkins.
James DeNomme, who also played a huge role in Wednesday’s win over St. Joseph, followed with a double, the only extra-base hit of the game, but Salamone struck out Will Velez to end the threat.
“Casey Mack came up with a big hit there,” Pacelli said. “That kid spends so much time I the batting cage. It’s like his second home. There was no one I wanted up in that spot other than him.”
Staples still had a chance in the bottom of the 10th, but Keyes struck out the first two batters he faced then ended the game with a groundout to third.
“He’s unbelievable,” Pacelli said. “For a sophomore, he’s got ice water running through his veins.”
Staples had its share of chances, collecting five walks and one hit batter to go along with eight hits, including two by center fielder Matt Reynolds (2-for-4). But the Wreckers left 13 men on base, including seven in scoring position.
“You gotta hit,” McFarland said. “You can’t win if you don’t score.”
The second game — which can only be described as bizarre — was suspended due to rain with top-seeded and undefeated Greenwich (21-0) leading 1-0 in the top of the fifth.
Senior right-hander Dylan Callahan had a no-hitter going, although he walked four and hit three, including back-to-back batters in the fourth. McMahon senior centerfielder Zack O’Connor appeared to break it up with a hit that sprayed the chalk on the third-base line with one out in the fourth, but the third-base umpire called it foul.
That was the third strange call by the umpiring crew, which reversed two decisions over the first two innings.
McMahon senior standout Bryan Daniello got thrown out at the plate in an attempt to steal home after taking third on a double steal. Greenwich scored its only run in the bottom of the first on, what else? A double steal by Callahan and Tyler Olmstead.
McMahon also had a runner picked off first.
The game will be resumed Friday at 7 p.m. at Harbor Yard. If Harbor Yard is not available, it’ll be played at Wilton High School.
All of this obviously helps Trumbull, which will be aiming for its first FCIAC title since 2005 when it beat Greenwich.
The late Jerry McDougall, a former longtime baseball and football coach at Trumbull High, was still in uniform at that time.
“This feels great,” Pacelli said. “The last time we were here was 2005 when coach Mac was still with us. We definitely think he’s still in our corner up there looking down on us.”