Matt Memoli has played in, and coached, a lot of baseball games — recreation, high school, and collegiate ball included. Until a May 10 visit to Bridgeport’s Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Bluefish, he’d never been a part of anything like this one: a wild 16-15 Newtown High School victory over Masuk of Monroe. A game in which his Nighthawks overcame football-like 8-0 and 15-6 deficits to somehow steal a victory.
Memoli’s also watched a lot of America’s pastime, and the coach called it the “craziest game I’ve probably seen or been a part of.”
Dave Matthews completed the improbable comeback with a bases loaded, bases clearing double in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Nighthawks seemed destined for defeat by the time they came to bat in the third inning. Newtown trailed 8-0 after Masuk posted six runs in the top of the third. The Nighthawks responded with six runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame to make it an 8-6 game. The Panthers got the next seven runs to build a seemingly commanding 15-6 lead. Not giving up, the Hawks scored two runs in the fifth, four in the sixth, and four more in the seventh to pull out the win.
Alex Lapinski had four hits, scored four runs, and drove in three, and Greg Hennessey, Nick Lotrecianno, and Matthews all had three hits. Jaret DeVellis had two of Newtown’s 17 hits. Newtown used some patience at the plate, too, working six walks along the way.
“Everyone was having a great at bat and being unselfish,” Memoli said. “I just told the guys to keep playing hard, keep staying positive.”
Staying positive comes pretty easily for this group, according to senior captain Virgil Procaccini, who had a hit and an RBI in the game. “We knew we had a chance throughout the whole time,” he said. “I knew we were in it the whole game.”
This was a thrilling win for the Nighthawks against a now nine-win South-West Conference rival.
“It was probably the best game I’ve ever been a part of — especially with this group of guys,” said Hennessey, another senior captain. “We have a lot of fun and I think it translates onto the field.”
Newtown, which began the season with five straight losses, continued its turnaround and improved to 6-8 overall, then proceeded to win its next three contests, heading into a May 15 scheduled game against Ansonia. The Hawks carried a 9-8 overall mark (8-4 in conference play) into their last three games, ensuring a spot in the state playoffs and bolstering their SWC postseason chances.
The win over Masuk, in some ways, serves as a microcosm of the season.
“It’s big for us. I think that it shows a lot of the heart, a lot of the desire the kids on this team have,” said senior captain Austin Raftery, who had a hit in that memorable game.
Despite the lopsided scoring, Memoli said his Hawks faced some of the tougher pitchers they’ve seen this spring. It took some good at bats to pull through, the coach said.
The team’s resiliency is something Memoli enjoys seeing. Newtown lost 11 players to graduation and standout pitcher Mike Davis wasn’t able to come back from an injury, leaving a new-look lineup in place. After an 0-5 start, things were looking bleak, but that’s in the past and the playoffs are in the future.
“I’m extremely pleased with this group. I love this group — I want them to do well,” Memoli said.
After the Masuk game, Newtown went to Brookfield on May 12 and earned a 3-1 win behind a complete game, six-hit effort by Michael Parker. Procaccini had three hits and drove in two, and Hennessey knocked in the other run.
The next day, Stratford visited for Newtown’s first game on its high school diamond since an April 23 win over Joel Barlow of Redding. Jim Parker pitched six-plus innings for the win in a 7-4 Newtown victory. Pat Rowley entered with one out, and the bases loaded, in the seventh. Rowley put out the fire by inducing a game-ending double play grounder.
Procaccini had two hits and three driven in, Garrison Buzzanca had three hits, and Lipinski, Hennessey, and Lotrecianno all had two hits. Newtown blew the game open with a five-run third inning.
Newtown blanked Bethel 8-1 on May 14. Buzzanca had three hits and two runs batted in, and Raftery, Lotrecianno, and DeVellis all drove in two runs. Rowley scattered six hits to earn the complete game win.
The Hawks will be home to face Kolbe Cathedral on Monday, May 19 for a 4:15 pm game. The season ends the next day with a visit to Notre Dame-Fairfield.