Warde’s repeat crowns highlight FCIAC baseball season

Fairfield Warde had another great season and put the wraps on an incredible two-year run as the Mustangs defended their FCIAC and state Class LL championships to highlight a very good baseball season by the conference in general.

Coach Brett Conner’s Mustangs won the 2023 CIAC Class LL Baseball Tournament championship game with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings over fellow conference member Staples a couple weeks after they won their third consecutive FCIAC championship with 6-1 victory over Westhill.

Consequently, Fairfield Warde was ranked No.1 in the final GameTimeCT Top 10 Baseball Poll for the second consecutive year. This year the Mustangs were the unanimous No. 1 with all 13 first-place votes. Last year they got 11 of the 13 first-place votes.

Warde and Staples were ranked 1-2 as they led a quartet of FCIAC teams ranked among the top nine. Trumbull and St. Joseph were ranked seventh and ninth, respectively.

Fairfield Warde (23-5) received the maximum 390 polling points. Coach Jack McFarland’s 21-6 Staples Wreckers got 364 points. That was 58 points more than No. 3 Newington, which finished 20-4 after its 3-1 loss to Warde in the Class LL semifinals.

Guilford (24-4) was ranked fourth and followed in the Top 10 by state Class L champion Brookfield (22-6), state Class M champion Nonnewaug (23-3), Trumbull (17-7), Notre Dame-West Haven (18-8), St. Joseph (18-7), and state Class S champion Haddam-Killingworth (22-5).

Westhill (15-12) received the 16th most polling points and New Canaan (11-12) got the 20th most as the two FCIAC teams among the 11 total in the “Others receiving votes” category.

Fairfield Warde’s Mustangs ended their season with a nine-game winning streak after their 3-2 loss at home to Trumbull on May 15. They won three games in the FCIAC tournament and their last five in the state Class LL tourney.

Warde’s Griffin Polley stepped into the batter’s box with two outs in the top of the 10th inning of a 1-1 game in the state Class LL final against Staples and he singled in the eventual game-winning run. Sophomore pitcher Austin Howard got the final three outs in the bottom of the 10th to secure that second straight state championship.

Prior to delivering that clutch RBI single in the top of the 10th, Polley and Staples ace Hiro Wyatt had quite the pitchers’ duel. Both hurled shutout ball through six innings and pitched eight full innings. Polley allowed just two hits and had five strikeouts, while Wyatt struck out nine and allowed five hits.

These Fairfield Warde 2023 Mustangs made history by becoming the first FCIAC team ever to have won three consecutive conference championships.

Stamford Catholic won the first two FCIAC championships in 1969 and ’70, and the school later defended its title in 1999 when it was named Trinity Catholic. The three other teams which won two straight conference crowns were Stamford in 1979 and ’80, Greenwich in 1991 and ’92, and McFarland’s 2009 Staples Wreckers defended their title.

Wyatt was selected the Player of the Year to lead the 2023 All-FCIAC Baseball First Team. Westhill’s Kyle Kipp and New Canaan’s Alex Benevento were the two players who made all-conference first team for the second straight year.

The other 15 players who made All-FCIAC First Team this year were Polley and his three Warde teammates Garrett Larsen, Paddy Galvin, and Will Stellato; Matt Tabet, Andrew Keeler, and Sebastian Sampieri of St. Joseph; Scott Gell and Ryan Warner of Trumbull; Jaron Kline of Staples; Ridgefield’s Myles Gythfeldt; Danbury’s Jacob Ditscher; Fairfield Ludlowe’s Cole Gibson; Stamford’s Vasili Kelesidis; and Westhill’s Kieran Hackett.

Wyatt, Kipp, Benevento, Polley, Larsen, Ditscher, and Gell were the seven FCIAC players among the 20 total selected to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Class LL All-State Baseball Team. Tabet made the CHSCA Class M All-State Team.

The success the FCIAC had in the Class LL state tournament gave credence to the conference’s strength.

The FCIAC had three of the four semifinal teams and a 23rd-seeded Westhill team was among them before the Vikings were beaten by Staples, 10-2, in the semifinals. The conference had 11 of the 32 teams in the Class LL field and a combined 17-10 record.

Wilton was the 32nd and last seed in the Class L tournament and won twice to advance to the quarterfinals. Fifth-seeded St. Joseph was 3-1 in the Class M tourney after advancing to the semifinals.

So, the FCIAC had a .647 winning percentage with its 22-12 combined record from its 13 teams in the three largest state tournaments.

Indeed, it was a very good year for FCIAC baseball.

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