Newtown High School’s baseball team won four of its last five games heading into the month of May to climb into the state playoff picture. Newtown, after an 0-5 start to the campaign, quickly got half the wins it needs to extend the season into the state bracket. The Nighthawks, thanks to this possible season turning point, need just four victories in their last ten contests to qualify.
The Hawks split an April 28 doubleheader with Pomperaug of Southbury, at Fairfield Hills, losing the opener 5-1 and pulling out an eight-inning 8-6 victory in the nightcap to improve to 4-6 overall.
“It’s great to get wins in four of our last five games. We have had some quality at bats with runners in scoring position and have had some solid innings on the mound. Connor Miller had a huge complete game win versus Immaculate,” said Newtown Coach Matt Memoli, alluding to Miller’s three-hits-allowed, one earned run performance in a 6-3 win over the Mustangs on April 25.
The Nighthawks, during this stretch, have found their offensive stride, producing a 15-9 win over Oxford on April 21, a 9-8 edging of Joel Barlow of Redding on April 23, and the six- and eight-run outbursts against Immaculate and Pomperaug.
“I feel like we are starting to play together as a team and are improving in all facets of the game,” said Memoli, who has a mostly new-looking roster after graduation and injury took a dozen players from last year’s lineup. “We need to really continue working on our base running and keep putting pressure on other teams.”
Newtown had Pomperaug on its heels in the first game of the twin bill, managing six hits and four walks, but couldn’t overcome the Panthers. Down 2-0 in the fifth inning, the Nighthawks loaded the bases on a Charlie Huegi walk, a Garrison Buzzanca bloop single, and a perfectly placed Jaret DeVellis bunt single. An error led to a run, but a fly out, strikeout, and groundout followed. The Panthers came right back with three runs in the next frame, and Newtown couldn’t chip away at the deficit despite putting men on base in the final couple of innings.
“The first game we had guys on every inning but couldn’t capitalize. To bounce back and get a split was huge for us,” Memoli said.
Virgil Procaccini smacked a three-run triple to highlight a five-run fourth inning, one of his two hits in the game. The Newtown shortstop has been clutch throughout the season, posting a .406 batting average and a team-high ten runs batted in. He went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run batted in, and two runs scored in the win over Barlow; had two hits, four RBI, and a pair of runs scored in the win over Oxford; and reached base all five times (including a trio of walks) in the win over Pomperaug.
“Virgil had the big hit again as he continues to lead us offensively,” Memoli said. “He does such a great job of getting into good counts and not trying to do too much at the plate. He hits the ball where it’s pitched and really barrels up a lot of the balls he hits.”
Procaccini let his patience at the plate and speed on the bases do the work in the tie-breaking eighth inning. He led off with a walk and, following an Austin Raftery single, stole third and came around to score for a 7-6 lead when a pitch in the dirt eluded the Panthers’ catcher. Jack Procaccini had an RBI single to score pinch runner Connor Miller with a big insurance run.
Raftery is batting .429 and has driven in nine runs, Sam Czel is batting .406, and DeVellis and Greg Hennessey are hitting .364 and .357, respectively. Raftery and Hennessey both knocked in two runs in the win over Barlow.
Newtown is in the midst of a stretch of ten straight games away from its regular home field at the high school. After three straight scheduled road games this week, the Hawks have back-to-back “home” contests, May 9 and 10, but the first is a 6:30 pm visit from Stratford to Fairfield Hills, and the second is a 12:30 game against Masuk of Monroe at The Ballpark At Harbor Yard.