Darien downs Westhill, defends FCIAC title
Darien was solid against the Westhill Vikings in their FCIAC championship game at Sacred Heart University's Pioneer Field on Saturday, and when that wasn't enough, the Blue Wave came up with some big-time plays on their way to an 8-5 win and the the title.
It was Darien's second consecutive FCIAC championship from a group that coach Nick DeMaio termed "exceptional."
He said,"They are exceptional athletically as well as well as in their dedication to the game."
Darien scored in each of the first two innings -- so did Westhill -- as the visiting Wave opened up a 3-2 lead after two. Some shaky fielding led to the scores.
Freshman Erica Osherow, one of the few underclassmen who start led off with a base hit and went to second when the ball was mishandled in the outfield. Osherow had three hits in the game.
When pitcher Jessica DeMaio followed with a double to left, Darien had its first run. The Blue Wave made it 2-0 when Courtney Bell, who was named tournament MVP, followed with the first of her two doubles scoring courtesy-runner Avery Maley from second base. Each of Darien's first six batters had at least one hit.
But Westhiil struck back in their half of the first when Cassandra Kish hit a swinging bunt that traveled only a few feet with perfect placement.
Pitcher Allison Macari, batting third, helped her own cause with a solid shot to left center that skipped off the fence on one bounce for a triple.
Macari, bound for Ithaca in the fall, thought the Blue Wave was the better team today.
"I was just so-so on the mound today," Macari said, "I've been better and I've been worse, but credit Darien, they were better than we were today."
Macari was left stranded when center fielder Kate Brainard made a nice running catch to end the threat.
Westhill coach Tom Pia said afterwards, "They hit and made some big plays and deserved it."
With the score 2-1 Darien after one, two Blue Wave singles and a walk loaded the bases. Brittany Osborn singled to right /center scoring the Wave's second run.
Westhill scored a second run on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze. After three innings Darien led 3-2.
The Wave broke it open in a four-run fourth when, with the bases loaded, Bell hit a rope over third - that scored three for a 6-2 lead. They made it 7-2 on a Kelly Fahey double.
"Our hitting which had been spotty lately really came around today," Bell said.
With Westhill threatening again in the home fifth, Darien came up with two big plays in the inning.
Osherow looked like a seasoned veteran instead of a freshman when she went into the hole between short and third to snag what looked like a hit, made a nice backhand scoop, straightened up and gunned the runner out at first on a perfect throw.
Emma Hamilton, who had misplayed a ball in the first inning more than atoned for the early error when she ran back for a ball that was hit to her right; extra bases all the way. The lanky athlete caught the ball at full stretch to end the rally.
"I really wanted to do something positive after the first inning and I really felt good about catching the deep ball."
Westhill got something going in the sixth on a hit and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brittany Bautista to close to within 7-5.
But Darien answered back quickly in the top of the seventh when DeMaio singled home Osherow, who had tripled, to make it 8-5.
"I felt I was getting stronger as the game went on," said the Uconn-bound senior.
DeMaio struck out seven and walked only one, the walk coming in the seventh inning.
Macari struck out four and walked four while allowing 13 hits.
Both teams will play in the Class LL bracket of the state tournament starting next week. Darien (18-3) and seeded No. 3, will host Hamden (8-12) on Tuesday. Westhill (18-3) and seeded No. 2 will host Fairfield-Warde (8-12) on Wednesday.