Woodland baseball wants more complete games


BEACON FALLS — Deep runs in the state tournament are becoming the norm for the Woodland baseball team.
The Hawks, seeded seventh in Class M, reached the quarterfinals for the third consecutive tournament by cruising in their first two games. They topped No. 26 Seymour, 9-1, in the first round Tuesday before routing No. 23 Grasso Tech, 11-2, in the second round Wednesday.
Those wins set up a Saturday quarterfinal between Woodland and No. 2 Northwestern, a rematch of the 2021 Class M semifinal that the Highlanders won, 3-2. The winner would advance to the June 7 semifinal against No. 11 Waterford or No. 19 Jonathan Law with the finals set for June 10-11.
Woodland coach Steve Bainer said the Hawks’ early tournament success was spurred in part by their strong showing in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament. They reached their first tournament final since 2004.
“Beating good teams like Naugatuck and St. Paul definitely reaffirmed the belief our guys have that we can play with anyone competitively on any given day,” Bainer said, “and dropping one to Holy Cross is the type of game that keeps you humble and hungry, reminding you that you haven’t reached the top of the mountain yet.”
In the first-round win over Seymour, Michael Belcher, Ryan Montini and Anthony Marsala all homered while Ethan Stepputtis was 4-for-4 with a double, two runs, and an RBI. Belcher allowed three hits with six strikeouts in five innings and was expected to pitch for the Hawks against Northwestern.
The following day, Matt Deegan tripled, singled and had three RBI against Grasso Tech. Tyler Giambra struck out seven in three innings and added two hits, two steals, and a run.
Bainer said Woodland (19-6) needs to keep playing complete games if the Hawks want to reach a state final for the first time in program history.
“For us to keep playing baseball beyond (June 3), we have to play as a team, be unselfish, throw strikes, play good defense, and come up with timely hits,” Bainer said. “During this time of the year, everyone is a good team capable of winning a baseball game, and you need to find a way to go take a game from an opponent by making a big play, because at this stage of the game no one is going to give you a game.”
Naugatuck bounced in second round: The Greyhounds, seeded ninth in Class LL, earned a 10-6 win over No. 24 Cheshire in the first round before suffering a 10-4 loss to Danbury in the second round to end their season.
Ryan Tyszka had three hits, two runs and two RBI to lead Naugy in the win over Cheshire. Thomas Barry also had three hits, two runs and three RBI, while Matt Stefan, Jibree Bartelle and Mike Rusin added two hits apiece. Brady Evon allowed five runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in five innings for the win. Blake Stone’s two relief innings sealed the win.
Rusin, Tyszka, Stone, Bartelle and Stefan each had a hit in the loss to the Hatters. Naugatuck finished 16-7.