WATERTOWN — The sluggish, 0-3 start the Woodland baseball team experienced is a thing of the past. The Hawks have reeled off four straight wins, including a 5-2 victory Monday in Watertown, to improve to 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the Naugatuck Valley League.
Woodland’s starting pitching remained outstanding, as junior Tom Arsenault made his third quality start in as many appearances, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out five in 5 1/3 innings of work. Senior ace Kyle Georgia relieved Arsenault of a sixth-inning jam and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the save.
Arsenault took a comfortable lead to the mound, after the Hawks plated three runs in the top of the first. Senior center fielder Ryan Genua and junior catcher Jack DeBiase reached to start the game and after a Georgia fly ball advanced both, senior first baseman Mike Diurno stroked a two-run single to right. Junior second baseman Mike Hardy then singled home Diurno to give Woodland a 3-0 lead.
“We’re getting better offensive production right now,” Woodland head coach Joe Steele said. “The pitching has been a constant throughout and has been good, but the defense was inconsistent in the beginning, and now it’s much stronger than it was. The hitting and offensive production has gotten better as well.”
The Hawks manufactured another run in the fourth, after a leadoff single by junior right fielder Ryan Mariotti. Senior left fielder Lou Enama bunted Mariotti to second, before junior designated hitter Anthony Pacileo lined a single to right-center to make it 4-0.
Arsenault faced little trouble until the fourth, when the Indians notched their first hit, an RBI single to score their first run. The fireballer allowed only one more run and got out of the jam, thanks to poor baserunning. On a fly ball to left field with one out, Joe Cianciolo failed to tag at third, while pinch runner Todd Simpson forgot how many outs there were and was rounding second. Senior Lou Enama caught the fly and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
“I’m feeling good,” Arsenault said. “The defense is playing well behind me. My catcher is doing a great job of blocking the balls I throw in the dirt. I don’t have any complaints of the hitting behind me. They’re putting up runs, and we keep preventing runs and we’re winning games.”
Arsenault allowed a pair of singles in the top of the sixth, including one which was lined off his foot. Georgia came in for the extended save and retired the side with no trouble.
“It’s always good when you can march a pitcher out there who has the potential to challenge batters and keep the score at a reasonable level, so that your offense has a chance to win the ballgame for you,” Steele said. “I think both of those guys have the capability to do that.”
Woodland created another insurance run in the seventh, when sophomore third baseman Connor Chura scored, after being walked, bunted to second by Genua, and driven in by a Georgia single, to make it 5-2.
Georgia worked through a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh by picking off a runner at third, before Chura fielded a ground ball at third for the final out.
The Hawks are in the middle of a tough stretch of games which, according to Steele, “Will show how we rate amongst the teams that are currently at the top of the league. I don’t think there’s an easy game in the Naugatuck Valley League.”
After heading to Wolcott Wednesday, Woodland hosts Seymour Friday and Naugatuck Monday before next Wednesday’s showdown at Holy Cross.
Arsenault, though, doesn’t think Woodland should be the underdog in any of those games.
“If Bam and I are on our games, I feel that we’re unbeatable,” he said. “We’re the top two pitchers in the NVL.”