FAIRFIELD -- Trust is an important element of the pitcher-manager (coach) relationship in baseball. When Greenwich was rallying in the seventh inning of its FCIAC game Wednesday afternoon at Kiwanis Field, Ludlowe coach Mike Francese had relievers warming up.
But already on the mound was the Falcons' ace, senior Kevin Hickey, trying to preserve Ludlowe's shrinking lead, though his already high pitch count was climbing. A brief meeting surrounding Hickey with Cardinals' base runners aboard revealed how much confidence Francese has in Hickey -- and in how much esteem he is held.
Hickey stayed in. He survived the Greenwich rally after two runs were scored, stranding runners on first and third. The 6-foot-8 righty wrapped up a 3-2, complete-game victory for his fifth win in as many decisions. Hickey, headed to South Carolina Upstate next year, wound up with 110 pitches thrown.
"I'm always concerned when there are base runners," Francese said. "But if I had a choice to have someone out there in that situation, he's the man I'd want. He showed no signs of not being able to go after their hitters. He looked good all day."
Hickey allowed four hits and struck out four Cardinals. But he walked seven in improving to 5-0.
The win lifted Ludlowe to 8-5 overall, qualifying the Falcons for the CIAC Class LL tournament later this month, and to 6-5 in the FCIAC. Greenwich fell to 7-6 overall and 5-6 in the conference. The Cardinals lost their second straight and their third in the last four games. The Falcons ended a two-game slide but have won four of their last six games.
Greenwich coach Phil Tarantino said Hickey, who drove in runs in the first and third innings with opposite-field singles, was fine. "He threw strikes," said Tarantino, who was more focused on Greenwich's base running mistakes -- two Cardinals were picked off -- and their lack of hitting with runners on.
The Cardinals had collected two hits off Hickey before the start of the seventh. Following an infield single by pinch hitter Sean Marks, Hickey walked Devin McGrath and Alex Loparco back to back, each for the second time in the game, to load the bases. A fielder's choice force play at the plate was the first out, then Kyle Dunster drove in the first run on a fielder's choice force play at second base. Jon Dreher's infield single scored Loparco from third. But the rally, and the game, expired on a fly out to right field.
Dunster, who was equally as effective as Hickey, allowed six hits and struck out 10 Falcons.
Hickey said it was his "best stuff" and "best velocity" of the season. Of the walks, he indicated the strike zone was not expansive, though he did not use those words.
Hickey said he threw fastballs half the time, with cutters 30 percent, change-ups 20 percent and curves 10 percent. Francese said Hickey's velocity has been increasing with each start.
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LUDLOWE 3, GREENWICH 2
GREENWICH 000 000 2--2 4 2
LUDLOWE 102 000 X--3 6 1
Records: Greenwich 7-6, 5-6 FCIAC; Ludlowe 8-5, 6-5 FCIAC. Batteries: G--Kyle Dunster (L, 2-3) and Jon Dreher; L--Kevin Hickey (W, 5-0) and Billy Moeder. Highlights: G--Jon Dreher had an RBI single. J.T. Hintzen hit a double. Kyle Dunster struck out 10 and allowed no walks. L--Kevin Hickey went 2-for-3 with two RBI; allowed four hits and seven walks, while striking out four. Tom Ryan hit a double.