Overtime

Dave Ruden offers news, commentary and analysis on the FCIAC and local sports

Opening Day comeback propels Staples to 3-0 start

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With five starters back, including his No. 1 pitcher and top reliever, Staples baseball coach Jack McFarland admitted that offense was his primary concern entering this season.

Sure enough, the Wreckers found themselves staring at a 6-1 deficit heading into the bottom of the 6th inning during Wednesday’s opener against Newtown.

“There really was no panic in the dugout at all,” McFarland said. “The kids grinded away.”

The Wreckers erupted for 5 hits and scored 6 runs to come away with a 7-6 victory, the kind of lift that can help propel the team to a fast start. Staples followed the game up with two more wins to come out of the opening week with a 3-0 mark.

“We tried to figure out a way to hit the kid,” McFarland said, referring to Newtown pitcher Brandon Marks. “It was all curveballs. Curveball after curveball. We started making adjustments. His pitch count was high and we broke through the third and fourth time around.”

Staples' Bryan Terzian

Three different pitchers have wins and none of them are Chris Speer, the Wreckers’ senior ace. Greg Salamone, who set a team record with 6 saves last season, got his first one this year against Newtown.

McFarland said the team’s underrated commodity was the constant in all three games.

“If you really want to look why we are 3-0, we haven’t made an error,” McFarland said. “We catch the ball, and then we started hitting the ball. We played errorless ball and then got double-digit hits the next two games.”

With James Frusciante, Sam Ellinwood and Bryan Terzian leading the way, McFarland said run production could be the key for a team that won three of four FCIAC titles before failing to reach the final last season.

“Hitting’s what we’ve emphasized,” McFarland said. “Pitching and defense we know are going to be there.”

St. Joseph’s Ceballos making a statement with bat

One of the more interesting storylines this spring involves Tori Ceballos, the junior pitcher on the St. Joseph softball team. Ceballos is one of the top returning players in the league, but the Cadets also have a highly touted freshman pitcher, Nicole Williams, and coach Jeff Babineau wants to get both of his pitchers work.

Ceballos has discovered she can use the situation to make multiple contributions.

St. Joseph's Tori Ceballos

Ceballos started on the mound in the team’s opening game and went all 11 innings in a tough 4-3 loss to Newtown. After Williams came back the next day to shut out Bunnell, Ceballos returned to the mound for the Cadets’ third game in three days and blanked Ridgefield on a 3-hitter.

No one is surprised by what Ceballos has done on the mound. But what has been a revelation thus far is her performance at the plate. Ceballos has been more than just good. She has been GOOD.

Ceballos is 6 for 12, with 3 RBIs and 4 runs scored.

Ceballos’ bat will ensure that she remains an attribute for the Cadets even on the days when she doesn’t take the mound.

Four days in and just three unbeaten teams

The most incredible statistic four days into the softball season? Just three teams — New Canaan, Danbury and Staples — remain unbeaten. St. Joseph and Darien, the teams most often mentioned as favorites heading into opening day, had tough non-league losses. It is too early to tell if this is an anomaly or if it portends warning signs for how the FCIAC stacks up against the rest of the state come playoff time.

There is a long way to go before making any kind of pronouncements. Many of the top teams scheduled difficult non-conference games to prepare for the races ahead.

Don’t sleep on New Canaan and Danbury. They were two of the seven teams that coaches considered in the top pack and the two of the seven that were least mentioned. But both rate near the top of the league with returning starters.

Top of the order

BASEBALL

1. STAPLES (3-0): The come-from-behind win over Newtown helped set a good tone for the season, and the Wreckers’ pitching allowed just three runs in their next two games.

2. NEW CANAAN (3-0): The Rams, with an abundance of talent, will get a good test with games against Trumbull on Monday and St. Joseph on Wednesday.

3. TRUMBULL (2-1): The Eagles rebounded from a non-league opening loss to Masuk by scoring a combined 23 runs in two straight wins.

SOFTBALL

1. ST. JOSEPH (2-1): The Cadets rebounded from a tough 11-inning loss to Newtown with a pair of shutout wins.

2. DARIEN (2-1): The Blue Wave’s 10-0 loss to Masuk was one of the more surprising scores of the opening week. It was the size of the outcome more than the outcome itself. A big game Monday against Westhill.

3. FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE (2-1): You could put about five different teams in this spot at this early point and get no argument. We will give the nod to the Falcons based on the quality of competition so far.

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