BEACON FALLS – Most of the Woodland baseball squad’s wins this season haven’t come very easily. Monday’s come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Watertown was no exception.
The Hawks scored all four of their runs in the sixth inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit, and senior Kyle Georgia pitched his way out of a seventh-inning jam to earn himself the save and his team its 11th win.
Junior pitcher Tom Arsenault chucked another solid game, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings of work. Arsenault took a no-hitter into the fifth inning until a one-out solo home run by Will Ernst not only broke up the no-no, but broke a scoreless tie to put the Indians ahead, 1-0.
Arsenault pitched himself in and out of trouble all afternoon, mostly due to his eight walks and a hit batsman. He stranded eight runners on base over the first four innings, including the bases loaded in both the second and fourth.
Woodland’s offense had just as little success at Watertown’s did throughout the first five innings. Indians’ starter Tom O’Brien kept the Hawks’ hitters off balance and rendered them able to manage only singles throughout the game.
The Black and Gold’s first major threat came in the fourth when senior first baseman Mike Diurno and senior center fielder Ryan Genua singled to lead off the inning. After junior pinch hitter Anthony Pacileo sacrificed both runners ahead, junior right fielder Ryan Mariotti was called to squeeze on the first pitch by head coach Joe Steele.
O’Brien threw the ball two feet over Mariotti’s head, and Mariotti couldn’t catch it with any piece of metal. Junior pinch runner Sean Deegan was stranded in the baseline and was tagged out. Mariotti struck out later in the at-bat to end the threat.
The Hawks broke through in the sixth, trailing, 2-0, after the Indians added an insurance run in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly. Diurno, Pacileo, and Mariotti loaded the bases with one out before senior left fielder Ben Kozera grounded out to second to drive home Woodland’s first run.
Senior utilityman Sean Farrell walked to reload the bases and junior catcher Jack DeBiase followed with a walk after a nine-pitch at-bat to tie the game at two.
The next batter, junior second baseman Mike Hardy—quickly becoming one of Woodland’s most clutch players—stroked a single to left, plating both Mariotti and Farrell to give Woodland a 4-2 lead.
“I was just looking for a base hit in that position so we could get the lead,” Hardy said. “I feel confident when I’m up at the plate in a key situation. I like the pressure. It’s also easier for me because I know if I don’t get the job done, the next guy in the order can pick me up.”
Arsenault started the seventh and retired the leadoff batter on a foul popout but walked the next hitter, prompting Steele to call upon Georgia. The senior captain, coming in directly from shortstop without a warm-up, allowed the first two batters he faced to single, making it a 4-3 game. An error kept the inning alive and loaded the bases, but Georgia induced a 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
The save was Georgia’s second of the season and gave Arsenault his team-leading sixth victory. Although the defensive gaffe didn’t hurt the Hawks in the final inning, it marked the sixth consecutive game in which Woodland committed at least one error.
“The defense hasn’t been as solid the past few games like it normally is,” Hardy said. “We just have to think before the ball is hit and not make mental errors. If we don’t make mental errors, I think we have a very good defensive team.”
The recent defensive weaknesses have been one of few major faults for a Woodland squad that is hitting .310 as a team, led by Hardy’s .435 average. The combination of strong hitting, shut-down pitching, and hopefully developing defense have the Hawks thinking about a Naugatuck Valley League championship.
“We’re very confident in our ability to win the NVL tournament,” Hardy said. “We look at ourselves as one of the better teams in the league. We have to keep doing what we’re doing. Our pitchers have done a great job this year, our defensive is having a good season overall but can get better, and we have to keep getting good offensive production like we have been.”
The Hawks wrap up the regular season Monday and Tuesday with divisional clashes at Derby and Seymour before the NVL tournament begins next Saturday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.