Hawks earn trip to quarterfinals

Woodland’s Zack Bedryczuk (12) throws to first during a Class M second round game May 30 against Lewis Mills at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. -BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

BEACON FALLS — It doesn’t matter where in the lineup the Woodland baseball team finds itself when it needs runs. The Hawks just keep hitting.

Woodland’s potent lineup and strong pitching helped the Hawks rip through the first two games of the Class M state tournament, earning the black and gold’s first trip to the state quarterfinals since 2007.

Victories over No. 28 Wolcott Tech and No. 21 Lewis Mills in the first two rounds gave the fifth-seeded Hawks (19-5) a home quarterfinal game against No. 13 Nonnewaug Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“I’ve been here a long time and seen a lot of games, and I’m really happy for this bunch,” Woodland coach Mike Kingsley said. “They talked about doing this last year, but they didn’t back it up. This year, they’ve proved it. They’ve gone out and won the games. Instead of talking about it, they’ve done it. They’ve played the game the right way, and their reward for it is a trip to the quarterfinals.”

A victory in the quarters will send Woodland to the Class M semifinals Tuesday against No. 1 Wolcott or No. 9 Haddam-Killingworth. If the Hawks get through that game, they’ll make their first-ever championship game appearance next Friday or Saturday at Palmer Field in Middletown.

After a 21-0 pasting of Wolcott Tech on May 28, Woodland took a little longer to pull away from Lewis Mills Thursday. The Hawks broke open a 1-1 game with a six-run fourth inning, helped by three bunts, three errors by the Spartans, and a pair of big hits by Zach Bedryczuk and Nick DeLucia.

Bedryczuk contributed with a two-out, two-run single. DeLucia had three hits and three RBI as the team’s No. 6 hitter.

“One through nine, we can all hit,” DeLucia said. “I’m always confident in anyone who’s up. If one guy gets out, we have the next guy up and we’re confident that he can drive in runs. When you score seven runs in a game, you win most games. That’s a good offense.”

Justin Butterworth scattered five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in a complete-game effort on the mound.

Woodland’s Nick DeLucia (18) slides safely into third as an errant throw gets by Lewis Mills’ Devin Shaffer (2) during a Class M second round game May 30 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. -BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Woodland’s second-round victory was its 18th win in its last 20 games, with the only two losses coming against Holy Cross, the top seed in the Class S tournament. The second of those losses came in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinals May 22, a game Woodland had every chance to win.

Kingsley chalks up his team’s strong play to its experience. The starting lineup in most games consists of five seniors and four juniors.

“You have a team that’s full of juniors and seniors who have been playing since they were freshmen,” Kingsley said. “Yeah, every team has to have 7-8-9-hitters. But our 7-8-9-hitters might be 3-4-5-hitters on another team. We just have a very confident group and kids who aren’t afraid of the big game.”

The quarterfinal appearance will be Woodland’s first since the Hawks’ run to the 2007 Class M semifinals, the deepest postseason run in program history. That season ended with a loss to Waterford.

Two victories will not only give Woodland its first championship berth, but it would also set the program record for single-season victories — the 2007 squad holds that record, too, with 20.

“The whole season — even after the 1-3 start, we knew we’d figure it out,” DeLucia said. “Ever since then, we’ve been rolling. We’ve got something (special) going here.”