Hawks still confident, despite late fade

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BEACON FALLS — A week that began so promisingly (a monumental win over Wolcott on senior day) ended so disappointingly (a pair of losses to Crosby and Derby), and now the Woodland baseball team will have to make its runs through the Naugatuck Valley League and Class M state tournaments in an underdog role.

The Hawks will likely earn a middle seed in the NVL tournament, which starts Saturday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Last week, it looked like Woodland was positioning itself to gain one of the top two seeds in the playoffs, after Thursday’s 5-3 win over Wolcott.

After suffering an 11-6 loss to the Eagles earlier in the season, the Hawks kept the door open to a potential Brass Division title by downing the division leader in Beacon Falls. Woodland piled on four runs in the first inning, as each of the Hawks’ first four hitters—Jack DeBiase, Mike Hardy, Kyle Georgia and Mike Diurno—singled and scored to put Woodland up, 4-0.

Wolcott rebounded for a run in the second, but the Hawks got it right back on a pair of doubles by Diurno and Ryan Genua.

Georgia held the lead for the rest of the game, hurling one of his best performances of the season in a complete game effort, allowing six hits and three runs with six strikeouts. The only other trouble Georgia faced was in the sixth, when the Eagles threatened to tie the game, but he locked down to stop the rally after just two runs. He retired the side in 1-2-3 fashion in the seventh to seal the win.

But the jubilation was short-lived, as the Hawks suffered a 5-1 loss to Crosby Saturday morning—conveniently the morning after Woodland’s senior prom. Crosby ace Kody Kerski shut down the Hawks, allowing one run on seven hits while striking out eight.

Tom Arsenault threw well for Woodland, allowing two earned runs in five innings of work. But it was the Hawks’ seemingly lethargic offense and sleepy defense that cost Woodland a run at a top seed in the NVL tourney.

“We were unfocused,” Diurno said. “We had our minds on other things.”

That focus didn’t return for Monday’s divisional game at Derby, where Woodland squandered a 5-1 lead in the fifth and suffered an 8-5 loss.

With the score tied at one in the third, the Hawks exploded for four runs, highlighted by Hardy’s two-run homer to left-center field.

Derby waited until the fifth and sixth innings to do its damage, taking the lead in the fifth on a grand slam by Ryan Skelly and adding a pair of unearned insurance runs in the sixth.

Georgia was scheduled to start, but arm soreness in his pregame bullpen session forced him off the mound. Mike Masulli hit the hill for just the second time this season and pitched very well on short notice, going 4 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and two hits.

Again, it seemed as though Woodland’s bats slept, notching seven hits, while the defense made five costly errors.

Still, the Hawks are confident the two-game skid is just a bump in the road.

“Teams have just been making plays,” Diurno said. “Everyone’s making contact, and we just need to jump on teams. That’s when we’re at our best. Come tourney time, Tom [Arsenault] and Bama, [Georgia], will be dangerous. The defense will come. We’ve got our mindsets right now and this is the team to beat when everything’s working well.

“As long as Tom and Bam are healthy and our D is what it was during our win streak, there’s not a team that could beat us in the NVL.”