JEFF JA­COBS

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page - Jeff. ja­cobs@ hearst­medi­act. com; @ jef­f­jaocbs123

MID­DLE­TOWN — His sopho­more pitcher had given ev­ery­thing he had, emp­tied his tank, and Paul Fab­bri had spo­ken from the heart to his de­part­ing seniors. Now here was the Ridgefield base­ball team ap­proach­ing a gag­gle of state re­porters.

Fab­bri’s wife had a long­stand­ing rule af­ter Quin­nip­iac women’s bas­ket­ball games for her hus­band.

“You can ask three ques­tions,” Tri­cia Fab­bri, the self- de­scribed “su­per­fan” of the Ridgefield base­ball team used to tell him.

In the quiet mo­ments af­ter Ridgefield’s 1- 0 loss to Cheshire in the Class LL state cham­pi­onship at Palmer Field, Paul Fab­bri was pre­pared to an­swer sev­eral more than three.

This was an his­toric week­end for Ridgefield ath­let­ics. The first school in CIAC his­tory to push four teams into the spring state cham­pi­onships, the boys lacrosse team would dra­mat­i­cally end Darien’s 76game win­ning streak. Yet this was the base­ball pro­gram’s first ap­pear­ance and it ended in ex­cru­ci­at­ing fash­ion with Cheshire’s only run scored on a fielder’s choice in the sev­enth in­ning.

Tri­cia Fab­bri, who has built a mid- ma­jor women’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram into a na­tional force, said she sometimes asks her hus­band to get his chin out of his chest when mat­ters turn south. Yet here he was af­ter­ward a thank­ful man, if not a to­tally sat­is­fied coach.

“To be around kids and coach, what’s bet­ter than that,” Paul Fab­bri said.

“This keeps me young. It’s a great job. I loved watch­ing my daugh­ter Carly play for her mom at Quin­nip­iac, so it has been a tremen­dous year. To be at games and see­ing kids com­pete and give their best, yeah, what’s bet­ter than that?”

There was a ques­tion whether the Quin­nip­iac women could keep rolling

when they left the NEC a few years back. Tri­cia Fab­bri’s an­swer was to amass MAAC ti­tles and in 2017 ad­vance to the NCAA Sweet Six­teen. Geno Auriemma even wore a Quin­nip­iac shirt at the Bridge­port Re­gional.

At Palmer Field on this Satur­day, Tri­cia Fab­bri would wear a Ridgefield shirt and start scream­ing when her hus­band was in­tro­duced.

“Bas­ket­ball’s so fast,” she said. “It took me a cou­ple of years to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of base­ball. I love be­ing out here.’

They met at Fair­field nearly 30 years ago. Paul was work­ing in the sports in­for­ma­tion of­fice. Tri­cia was a star on the bas­ket­ball team. She has com­pleted her 23rd sea­son coach­ing Quin­nip­iac. He is in his 23rd year as a math and English teacher at Ridgefield, coach­ing Notre Dame- Fair­field to state ti­tles in 2004 and 2009 be­fore tak­ing over the Ridgefield base­ball pro­gram for the 2013 sea­son.

Paul played base­ball at Notre- Dame Fair­field, which would beat Coven­try later Satur­day for the Class S ti­tle, and was head coach there for 14 years. The field there is named af­ter his dad. Paul dou­bled as girls hockey coach at Ridgefield for 11 years.

Their daugh­ter Carly com­pleted her ca­reer for Quin­nip­iac in the NCAA Tour­na­ment against UConn in Storrs. She will be a per­fect coach one day. Their son A. J., who at­tends Syra­cuse and works for the Bris­tol Blues of FCBL, was an all­state base­ball player for his dad. Their younger son Paul Henry plays bas­ket­ball at St. Joseph at Trum­bull.

“It’s what we do,” Tri­cia said of ath­let­ics. “It’s the fam­ily busi­ness.”

Fam­ily busi­ness wouldn’t be easy on this day.

Ben DeLaubell, who’s head­ing off to West Point, pitched bril­liantly for Cheshire. He needed only 80 pitches to throw a three­hit­ter, strik­ing out two. With the bases loaded and one out in the sev­enth, he drove in the only run of the game on a fielder’s choice.

“They win be­cause they have him,” Fab­bri said.

Still, there was sopho­more Matt DeLuca, throw­ing 105 pitches, be­fore fi­nally walk­ing two in the sev­enth and leav­ing with one out. He had thrown a one- hit­ter against New­town in the quar­ter­fi­nals and 1 1⁄ in

3 nings of shutout re­lief to pick up the win in the ex­train­ning vic­tory over Amity in the semis. But now he was out of gas.

“I’m amazed by what he did as a sopho­more,” Fab­bri said. “He wasn’t fazed. He matched a kid who is go­ing to West Point al­most pitch­for- pitch. He’s awe­some.”

Fab­bri had de­cided not to pull the in­field in with one out in the sev­enth and Jake Artzt com­ing in re­lief.

“I re­mem­bered Joe Torre not play­ing the in­field back against Luis Gon­za­lez in that sit­u­a­tion ( in the 2001 World Se­ries). I’d hate to get beat by a bloop like that. ( DeLaubell) is not a kid with a ton of wheels. A bloop and it’s 2- 0. We could have dou­bled him up right there. We al­most got it.

“Jake got a good hit­ter to hit a ground ball. It kind of took one ex­tra hop and that’s the dif­fer­ence.”

Ex­pec­ta­tions were not through the roof for Ridgefield in 2018, not af­ter Collin Lowe had left to play at Rich­mond and John Thrasher had left to play for Hart­ford.

“To get all the way here was pretty amaz­ing,” Fab­bri said. “I’ve been at the school for 23 years. I see these guys. I teach some of them. I think that makes a dif­fer­ence as a coach when you’re in the build­ing. This pro­gram hasn’t had a ton of suc­cess in base­ball. To win 40 games in two years is pretty grat­i­fy­ing.”

He starts count­ing his seniors. Matt Stama­tis will at­tend BC, Pete Columbia, Rich­mond. Alex Price is go­ing to Mid­dle­bury.

“I just thanked them out there in the out­field,” Fab­bri said. “It was great to come out to prac­tice ev­ery day at 3 o’clock. They rep­re­sented the school and their fam­ily so well. They’re a great bunch of kids.”

AQuin­nip­iac re­cruit was sched­uled to visit cam­pus Satur­day. Tri­cia had to tell her if they couldn’t sched­ule some­thing at 8 a. m. they’d have to resched­ule. They resched­uled.

“Win or lose I wasn’t go­ing to be at my best go­ing back to cam­pus,” Tri­cia said. “Paul looked at me and said why, what’s the big deal?”

Tri­cia sees a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties in her coach­ing with her hus­band. He’s in­tense, she says, but he’s a lot of fun to play for. For his part, Paul says Tri­cia isn’t in­clined to in­voke the three- ques­tion rule any­more.

“All I wanted to do was talk about bas­ket­ball and she wanted it to be a some­what reg­u­lar re­la­tion­ship,” he said. “I wanted to talk about sub­sti­tu­tion pat­terns.”

And Tri­cia?

“I don’t ask as many ques­tions af­ter the game,” she said. “I kind of take it at face value and lis­ten.

“Paul’s a base­ball coach. It’s who he is. It’s his iden­tity. He’s a kid at heart. He loves to coach.”

Tri­cia looked around the stands. Carly was there with her Quin­nip­iac team­mate Jen Fay. A. J., Paul Henry, all her in- laws.

“The posse,” Tri­cia said. “They don’t miss any­thing. What would a week­end be with­out be­ing on the court or field?”

Yeah, it the fam­ily busi­ness and it never ends.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Tri­cia Fab­bri, Quin­nip­iac women’s bas­ket­ball coach and the wife of Ridgefield’s base­ball coach Paul Fab­bri shows her sup­port for her hus­band’s team dur­ing the Class LL base­ball fi­nals Satur­day against Cheshire at Palmer Field Sta­dium in Mid­dle­town.

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