BEACON FALLS — Jack DeBiase is in the middle of everything the Woodland baseball team does. The junior is the Hawks’ starting catcher and hits at the top of their lineup while also being one of the team’s best baserunners. He did everything to near perfection Tuesday in Woodland’s 7-1 win over Naugatuck.
DeBiase went 3-for-3 with a double, three runs and a walk, while also calling pitches in Kyle Georgia’s superb, four-hit outing to help lead the Hawks to their sixth win in seven games, after starting the season 0-3.
Maybe, though, there was a little extra motivation for DeBiase Tuesday. That’s right—the team in the other dugout was Naugy. In his two football games against the Hounds, he’s racked up 271 yards and a pair of scores. He continued his excellence against the borough boys in his latest opportunity.
“It’s Naugatuck,” DeBiase said. “It’s a huge rivalry. If you don’t hate Naugy, you don’t belong at Woodland. Plus, I have never lost to them in my varsity career.”
DeBiase did plenty to make sure his Hawks got another win against the Greyhounds, but he had plenty of help. Mike Hardy had another excellent game, continuing his quietly outstanding season, going 2-for-2 with three runs, a walk and two RBIs. Georgia notched two more hits and a pair of RBIs.
“It’s good to know when you’re down a couple and need some runs, you can basically count on seven out of nine guys to get a rip,” DeBiase said of his team’s offensive success. “I’m just trying to make solid contact and put the ball in play.”
Naugatuck had a chance to strike first but stranded two runners in the top of the first inning. Woodland didn’t waste its opportunity to jump on starting pitcher Brandon Halbert, as both DeBiase and Hardy singled to start the inning and later scored to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
Halbert and Georgia both pitched well through the next three innings, each getting into jams but working their ways out. The Hounds made things interesting in the fifth by posting their first run. Matt D’Agnone singled to start the inning and, after stealing second and being moved to third, scored on a ground ball up the middle by Zack Dreher to close the deficit to 2-1.
Woodland responded strongly, though, led by familiar producers DeBiase and Hardy. The two again reached to start the fifth, and both scored on Mike Diurno’s two-run double to right-center to make it 4-1.
The Hawks tacked on three insurance runs in the sixth. Ryan Genua reached on a two-out single and, after DeBiase was intentionally walked, Hardy drove home both on a single to left. Georgia plated Hardy with a line drive to center to extend the lead to 7-1.
Georgia cruised through the last two innings, allowing just one runner to reach, on a walk. The senior ace walked four on the day while striking out five and allowing just four hits—those by D’Agnone and Dreher in the fifth and knocks by Arber Mehmedi and Anthony McKernan.
“I have been catching both Bama, [Georgia], and Tom [Arsenault] since I was little,” DeBiase said of his ability to work with the Hawks’ first and second starters. “We have great chemistry, and before the game starts, I can get a feel for what they feel like throwing that day. They have faith in my pitch calling.”
The Hounds have lost two in a row, after starting 6-1. They will try to get back on track this week with games against Kennedy, Derby, Torrington and St. Paul.
The Hawks are on the other end of the spectrum. Woodland downed Holy Cross, 7-4, Wednesday in Waterbury, handing the Crusaders their first Naugatuck Valley League loss of the season. Arsenault pitched 6 1/3 innings for the Hawks and overcame questionable ball-strike calls to hold the Saders to their lowest run output in an NVL contest this season.
Woodland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, after the usual suspects, DeBiase and Hardy, reached to start the game and were driven in by Georgia and Diurno, respectively. After the Crusaders knotted the score, 2-2, in the bottom half, the Hawks nosed back ahead in the second, on an RBI groundout by Hardy to score Anthony Pacileo.
Holy Cross tied the score again in the fifth, but the Black and Gold responded quickly by pulling back ahead on Ryan Mariotti’s squeeze bunt, which plated pinch runner Sean Deegan. But the Crusaders would not sit by idly, tying the game once more, 4-4, heading into the seventh.
Arsenault worked out of several jams—mostly products of his 10 walks and three hit batsmen—throughout the afternoon.
The Hawks tallied three runs in the top of the seventh, the first coming as Connor Chura scored via a throwing error on a potential inning-ending double play ball hit by Hardy. Georgia drove in Hardy, with a double, and Diurno knocked home Georgia on a ground ball through the left side.
Arsenault started the seventh but loaded the bases with one out. Brian Langdon, quietly becoming the Hawks’ go-to relief pitcher, came in and retired the final two batters of the game—one on a called strikeout and the other on a ground out—to seal Woodland’s seventh win in eight games.