Race against time

Storms force SWC, FCIAC teams to scram­ble into post­sea­son

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ryan Lacey

New Fair­field base­ball coach Joe Gar­bowski — a life­long res­i­dent of the town — sent his team home early fol­low­ing last Tues­day’s prac­tice, then raced to the base­ment at New Fair­field High as dev­as­tat­ing storms raced through.

Gar­bowski — whose street was hit par­tic­u­larly hard by the storm with the Na­tional Guard be­ing called in and power still not re­stored — even­tu­ally got home and the cleanup be­gan. Al­most a week later, he has barely spo­ken and hasn’t seen his team since that prac­tice. Power was re­cently re­stored to the town cen­ter and is slowly pro­lif­er­at­ing through the neigh­bor­hoods.

The sea­son started with rain and frigid tem­per­a­tures cre­at­ing havoc with the sched­ule. It ended with a host of se­vere storms that knocked the power out of sev­eral towns en­tirely, leav­ing lo­cal teams to com­plete their sched­ules ahead of the post­sea­son with time run­ning out.

“Never in all my years — liv­ing in this town since first grade — this is worst I’ve ever seen what’s

hap­pened to this town,” said Gar­bowski. I’m sure sur­round­ing towns are in the same predica­ment as we are as you look around.”

The Rebels — who have al­ready qual­i­fied for the SWC play­offs — are just one ex­am­ple of many who are try­ing to pick up the pieces be­fore the most im­por­tant part of the sea­son.

Fol­low­ing this week’s dev­as­tat­ing weather, the SWC and FCIAC were forced to ad­just the sched­ule of their post­sea­son tour­na­ments. For the SWC, a gaunt­let of three days in a row — Tues­day’s quar­ter­fi­nals, Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nals and Thurs­day’s fi­nal — will test the pitch­ing staffs of the eight qual­i­fiers.

“This for­mat is go­ing to be a tes­ta­ment who­ever has the arms, makes the plays and gets the big hits,” said New Mil­ford coach Ryan John­son. “We pride our­selves on be­ing men­tally tough; we think we have the arms to piece this to­gether, but this is some­thing un­usual.”

As wrestling and box­ing cir­cles would say: Card sub­ject to change.

With one more round of league games left on the sched­ule, matchups for the post­sea­son have not even been set. Sev­eral teams need to win their fi­nal games to get in, and with seed­ing im­pli­ca­tions across the board tour­na­ments can­not be­gin un­til all reg­u­lar sea­son games have been com­pleted.

Most schools hold a pol­icy that prac­tices or games can­not oc­cur if school is closed. New Fair­field is closed through Sun­day and its prom sched­uled for Mon­day; the Rebels still must face New Mil­ford in their sea­son fi­nale be­fore Tues­day. That leaves sev­eral un­ap­peal­ing op­tions, in­clud­ing the Green Wave and Rebels having to play their quar­ter­fi­nal games in the same day as their matchup.

“My ini­tial re­ac­tion was no way we have the makeup of a team to play four straight games, three of them be­ing play­off games with the pitch­ing rules what they are,” Gar­bowski said. “But ev­ery­one is in the same boat.”

For Pom­per­aug, which is sched­uled to host Im­mac­u­late Mon­day, that would also mean play­ing games in four straight days for a pos­si­ble ti­tle run. The Pan­thers also have seven wins; a win over the Mus­tangs would put them in the state tour­na­ment. Pom­per­aug coach Mike Eisen­bach added that sev­eral of his play­ers still do not have power as of Satur­day.

A short drive from the school down Judd Road would ex­plain why.

“The main thing was just mak­ing sure ev­ery­one was safe,” Eisen­bach said. “Once we got power to our house we reached out to any of our play­ers in need. It’s been nice too see ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity reach out for each other.”

CIAC rules require that a pitcher who throws more than 75 pitches in one game rest for three cal­en­dar days be­fore ap­pear­ing again. A pitcher who throws between 51 and 75 pitches must rest for two days. These counts will be heav­ily mon­i­tored be­fore a cham­pion is crowned.

“It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge,” John­son said. “What do you do, go and win your last league game to pos­si­bly not have that pitcher avail­able for the play­offs? Or piece it to­gether and have ev­ery­one throw their bullpen ses­sions.”

The FCIAC sched­ule is a lit­tle less daunt­ing with games sched­uled for Mon­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day, but the avail­abil­ity of aces who throw in the quar­ter­fi­nals in the fi­nal round would likely be lim­ited to a bullpen role.

“It’s not op­ti­mal in that you won’t get your ace on the mound (for the whole fi­nal),” said Sta­ples coach Jack McFarland. “It will help teams with stronger line­ups and deeper pitch­ing staffs; three play­off games in four days is a lot.”

Dan­bury and Green­wich will square off Sun­day to fin­ish their reg­u­lar sea­son; any ad­just­ment to that would push the tour­na­ment back another day. Top-seeded Ridge­field al­ready knows its op­po­nent in Ludlowe, but the rest of the field has yet to be filled out.

The qual­i­fy­ing round for the state tour­na­ment is sched­uled to be­gin Satur­day if the sched­ule wasn’t hec­tic enough.

With the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment al­ready in tur­moil, who­ever comes out on top of this grind will have earned it.

“I think we’re deep enough to be com­pet­i­tive, but it def­i­nitely makes it more of a wild-card tour­na­ment than it al­ready is,” McFarland said. “Tra­di­tion­ally any­one can got hot and win the three-game tour­na­ment.”

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Westhill’s Leo Socci fist pumps first base coach Chris An­tonacci af­ter hit­ting a sin­gle against Darien in the sec­ond in­ning of a 4-3 vic­tory on May 11 in Stam­ford.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Westhill’s Ge­orge Psi­co­paidas slides as Stam­ford’s Matt Wirz throws to first base to com­plete a dou­ble play to end the fourth in­ning on May 8 at Cu­beta Field.

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