Hawks battle back to get within reach of state tourney
BEACON FALLS — The position the Woodland baseball team finds itself in entering the last week of the season might not be enviable to some teams, but it’s a lot better for the Hawks now than halfway through the season.
Woodland battled back from a 1-9 start to earn a 6-11 record with three games to play, as of press time Wednesday. The Hawks need to win two of their final three games to qualify for the state tournament for the ninth straight season.
“We absolutely have to play one game at a time,” coach Mike Kingsley said. “We’ll rely heavily on our two senior pitchers that have been carrying us all year. We’ll put the ball in their hands and let them take us to the state playoffs.”
Woodland’s pitching has been one of the team’s strong points throughout the season. Senior starters Billy Alfiere and Brian Langdon have started the majority of the team’s games, both compiling ERAs under 3.40. Sophomore Tanner Kingsley also earns a start each week and has a team-best 1.17 ERA along with his 3-1 record.
The Hawks have only faltered when the defense forces their pitchers to get more than three outs. Woodland averages about four errors in losses and about two in victories. Kingsley thinks the improved defense has something to do with the team’s mentality.
“The confidence level of the kids is higher,” Kingsley said. “All it took was the first win to get the team some confidence and relieve some pressure. A lot of pressure builds during a seven-game losing streak, but they’ve played a lot looser and better since then.”
The offense has also been better during the second half of the season. Five players are hitting over .300, while the team holds a .279 average. Alfiere leads the charge with a .424 mark, including the team’s only home run of the season last week against Watertown. Steve Baeder has been hot, raising his average to .355 with 19 RBI, while Anthony Scirpo checks in at .339 with 20 runs. Tanner Kingsley is hitting .312 and Dave Uhl has posted a .302 mark.
Woodland had a chance to gain its two necessary wins last week after winning five in a row to improve to 6-9, but lost to a pair of aces in games against Seymour and Derby. This week’s games have been rescheduled twice due to rain.
The schedule as of press time had Woodland playing Crosby, Wolcott, and Ansonia, on consecutive days beginning Thursday. Wins in two of three would clinch another state tournament bid for the Hawks, while a sweep plus help would keep alive a small hope to make the league tournament.
“You always think you’re going to win all your games,” Kingsley said. “If we can win these three games that makes us 8-2 in the second half of the season. That’s something positive to build on. All of the teams that will be in there are teams that we’ve competed with during the regular season.”