With the memory of last year's playoff collapse fresh in everyone's mind, Rob Gau's pitching performance needed to be the stuff of legends in the championship game against Danbury on Saturday. We're talking Paul Bunyan legendary.
The big lefty had thrown a complete game just two days before to lift Staples past New Canaan in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference quarterfinals. Now he was on the mound in the seventh inning again, clinging to a two-run lead and closing in on 100 pitches. He walked the leadoff man and was behind 3-0 on Danbury's No. 9 hitter JP Dennehy.
That's when Staples head coach Jack MacFarland took a trip to the mound and told Gau one thing: "They're not swinging, so throw strikes," Gau said. "I kind of psyched myself out because I knew they were going to do anything to get a base runner. But I worked through that."
Gau came back to work the count full on Dennehy, then got him to loft a lazy fly to right. Gau then got Danbury's leadoff hitter Leu Betancourt to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play and the celebration was on.
The entire Staples team jumped on Gau, burying him in a pile of jubilation. Gau had thrown 102 pitches on two days rest with four strikeouts and carried his team to a 5-3 win and Staples' third FCIAC title in four years.
"I knew I could go the full seven today," Gau said. "I've done two days rest before, and I felt fine. I've got a rubber arm. It was just how my legs would hold up."
"Rob's a freak. He lives in the weight room and has college strength," MacFarland said. "If anybody could have done it on two days rest, it's Rob Gau. Anybody else, I don't think so."
Staples came through yet again with its signature two-out rally in the top of the sixth, trailing Danbury 2-1. After Mike Scott reached on an error, Tyler Jacobs cranked a double into the left-center field gap to drive in the tying run. Bryan Terzian provided the go-ahead runs for the second straight game, driving in Jacobs and Brendan Bernstein with an RBI single.
Gau and Terzian were named tournament co-MVPs.
Staples will try for more hardware when it hosts Manchester in the Class LL state tournament , which begins Tuesday.
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