BEACON FALLS — The Woodland baseball team has experienced both sides of the spectrum this season.
The Hawks got to experience the thrill of victory in a 9-8 win over NVL runner-up St. Paul. They also came crashing back to earth in a tough 10-9 loss to Oxford.
It was that type of season for the Hawks. Along the way came a little redemption as they turned around a 15-0 loss to Torrington by coming out on top, 10-2, in the rematch.
There were 17-run outbursts in wins over Kennedy and Ansonia, along with a pair of 15-5 victories against Sacred Heart and Crosby. But the Hawks, who finished the regular season 11-9, were still held out of the NVL tournament in a tie-breaking scenario for the second year in a row.
“In my eyes we were a much better team than our record showed,” Woodland head coach Mike Kingsley said. “There is really not a whole lot of difference from an 11-9 team and a 16-4 team. A half a dozen hits and a few miss played balls can be all the difference that there is.”
Woodland experienced that fate in the first round of the Class M state tournament.
No. 14 Woodland hosted No. 19 St. Joseph of Trumbull June 3.
Jared Grillo put the Hawks on top with a third-inning home run scoring Kevin Gabianelli, and the Hawks held a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth. Matt Spofford was getting it done on the hill. He went five plus innings and allowed five hits with five strikeouts before the Cadets came storming back.
St. Joseph tacked five runs on the board to take a 5-3 win.
“We came up short but it had nothing to do with the effort these kids put forth. Sometimes the outcome of a game is that close,” Kingsley said. “A couple of hits, a few miss played balls can be the difference between winning and losing.”
The Hawks were led by Spofford and fellow seniors shortstop Sam Merriman and outfielder Mike Kenney, who were all named to the All-Division team. Woodland also leaned on seniors Nate Clarke, Joe Poeta, Dylan Cummings, Kevin Gabianelli and Robert Stach.
“We had an outstanding core of eight seniors who are four-year players,” Kingsley said. “For a school our size to have a group of kids that large play for all four years says something about our baseball program here at Woodland.”
Kingsley said the group of seniors will be tough to replace.
“We are essentially losing our entire outfield along with our middle of the defense at shortstop and second base,” Kingsley said.
While the team is losing a lot from the lineup, one player in particular stood out for Kingsley.
“We are losing a lot but one of the key players we will be losing is Mike Kenney, who started and played every game for the last four years,” Kingsley said. “You just don’t replace a guy that has been so much a part of what we have been doing around here. This has been a tremendous group of kids and it’s been a pleasure to have coached them.”
Spofford batted .325 and was 5-2 on the mound, including three complete games during the second half of the season. The number one duty will fall to junior Tyler Boisvert, who led the team at the plate with a .327 batting average.
Junior Jared Grillo led the team in RBI and will be a consistent bat to be relied on next season. Juniors Mike Touhy and Matt Butterworth played significant roles and will be the go-to guys as seniors. Woodland will also look to junior Mason Rek, sophomore Isaiah Cotto and freshmen Matt Szturma and Zak Graveline to step up.
“There are going to be a lot of positions up for grabs come next season,” Kingsley said. “We do have a few juniors that we are going to be relying on, but a lot of these younger guys are going to need to step up.”