Rob Gau was on fumes, but the senior lefthander knew he could get to the finish line.
Pitching on two days' rest, Gau tossed a complete-game six-hitter Saturday at Harbor Yard as Staples rallied for a thrilling 5-3 victory over No. 2 seed Danbury that gave them the Wreckers their third FCIAC championship in four years.
Overall, Staples won an FCIAC-record seventh baseball championship behind a gutty performance from its ace.
"Two days' rest, I've done it before this year," said Gau, also a member of the Staples' teams that won FCIAC crowns in 2008 and 2009. "I felt fine. I got a rubber arm, it's just in the legs to come back and I think they were fine today."
Gau (7-1) was named the game's co-MVP along with third baseman Bryan Terzian, who had a two-run single that put the Wreckers ahead during a four-run rally in the top of the sixth. Gau won two games in the FCIAC tournament, tossing a five-hitter in a 3-0 victory over New Canaan in the quarterfinals.
"Rob is a freak," Staples coach Jack McFarland said. "He lives in the weight room, he's strong. He's got college strength and if there's anybody that could have done it on two days' rest, it's Rob Gau. Anybody else, I don't think so."
Gau's 102nd and final - pitch of the afternoon resulted in a game-ending and championship-clinching double play. He walked two and struck out four Saturday, finishing with a 1.50 ERA in the tournament.
"Give the kid a ton of credit, he's a senior," Danbury coach Shaun Ratchford said. "He wanted to finish what he started. He went out and battled the whole game. He pitched with a less day's rest than we had and he kept us off balance."
Through five innings, however, the Wreckers (18-5) could do little against Danbury ace Steve Dickerson (7-2), managing only three hits. But in the bottom of the sixth, they erupted for four runs with two outs, erasing a 2-1 deficit.
The Wreckers took advantage on an error to plate four unearned runs in the inning, but it was call that went against them that might have ignited their quiet offense.
With runners on first and second and one out, McFarland, coaching in the third-base box, thought an inside pitch hit Colin McCarthy on the elbow. The plate umpire said the ball hit the bat for a foul ball and McCarthy eventually flied out to center.
"I think that fired us up because the ball never hit Colin's bat," McFarland said. "Colin said his bat got stuck in the catcher's glove and it night have hit his jersey. So, in my mind, it's either a hitbatsman or it's interference for the catcher."
Tyler Jacobs came through with a game-tying single that dropped in front of left
fielder B.J. Nimer, who tried to make a diving catch. Terzian followed with a two-run single up the middle and Ryan Burke produced another run with an RBI single to left.
"We don't quit," Terzian said. "Two outs is nothing for us. We never give up. That's been our motto the whole year, to finish. We're here to win."
The Wreckers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on Burke's sacrifice fly before the Hatters (17-6) tied it in the bottom half, when Chris DelDebbio was able to score from the third on Austin Calitro's comebacker.
Danbury went ahead in the fourth on Calitro's RBI single and with the way Dickerson was pitching, it appeared that might be enough for the Hatters.
After Staples' offense finally responded, Gau still needed to get six outs, and they didn't come easily. Cory Dean led off the bottom of the sixth with a double and scored on a groundout by Calitro, who drove in all three runs for Danbury, to pull the Hatters within 5-3.
Gau started the seventh by walking Garron Negron on four pitches that weren't close and fell behind 2-0 to J.P. Dennehy. Gau appeared to be done, but McFarland let his ace stay in after a brief visit to the mound.
"He said, 'they're not swinging, throw a strike, get it over with. Do what you've been doing and we'll be FCIAC champs,''' Gau said.
Gau took the advice to heart. After throwing another ball, be battled back from a 3-0 count to get Dennehy to fly out to right. He then induced leadoff hitter Leudy Betancourt to ground to shortstop Jacobs, who started the game-ending double play.
"He really showed his character coming out like this," Terzian said. "Two days' rest is just ridiculous and to pitch seven innings as effectively as he did is great."
McFarland admitted that if Gau walked Dennehy, he was out of the game, to be replaced by Terzian, who closed out Staples' 7-6 semifinal win over St. Joseph.
"Rob's a champion," McFarland said. "He figured out how to get the ball in the strike zone and it was getting tight back there, to be honest, the last two innings. He figured it out."