Opponent In A Pickle: Rundown, Base Running, Pitching Help Sluggers Win
Newtown High School’s baseball team manufactured runs with aggressive base running — eight successful steals in nine attempts — and prevented runs with stellar pitching and fielding, including a wild rundown, to earn a 3-1 victory over visiting Stratford on May 5.
The Nighthawks turned a pair of double plays. There was a conventional one (second baseman Ryan Verdi to shortstop Yarema Stasyshyn to first baseman Will Burns) and a rundown that was anything but standard that led to another two outs.
Starting pitcher Charlie Curtis went the distance in a six-hitter, with six strikeouts; he did not walk a batter in a crisp 93-pitch effort highlighted by 61 strikes. Curtis helped his own cause by playing a key role in a crazy 1-5-6-1-4 double play. Newtown’s pitcher fielded a comebacker and caught a base runner in a rundown between second and third. The runner was in a pickle and eventually tagged out by Curtis, who then threw to second base to nab the batter trying to take an extra base on the play in a pitcher to third to shortstop to pitcher to second DP.
The Hawks trailed 1-0 in the fourth inning and posted a three-inning picket fence on the scoreboard with single runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth.
NHS evened the score in the fourth. Finn Geissler reached base and pinch runner Kyle Mockovak stole second, went to third in a passed ball, and scored on Sam D’Aprile’s single.
The Hawks took the lead in the fifth when Matt Pietrorazio delivered a timely, two-out double to plate Hayden Conklin, who had singled, with the go-ahead run.
“He has been so clutch this year,” Newtown Coach Ian Thoesen said.
Newtown tacked on insurance in the sixth. Pinch hitter Kyle Turk singled and pinch runner Joe Ehrens swiped second, took third on a wild throw, and scored on a passed ball.
“I told our guys we’ve got to be ready — especially the faster guys on the bench,” Thoesen said.
Newtown’s speed on the bases put pressure on the Stratford defense and pitching.
“That’s what we need. I’m stressing we’ve got to be aggressive and we are,” Thoesen said.
Curtis did most of his work on the mound in this one, but he has also been a mainstay at shortstop when not on the hill and has been a key bat in the lineup hitting close to .500 with a trio of homers.
“He has just stepped it up big-time,” Thoesen points out.
Curtis was mostly dominant but managed to be effective and work out of a little bit of late-game trouble. He worked around a leadoff double in the seventh, and recorded the final two outs in 3-0 and 3-1 pitches, respectively.
“He’s a battler — I don’t worry about him,” Thoesen said of the peace of mind he has when Curtis is on the mound.
Curtis used his fastball, slider, and changeup to keep Stratford off-balanced in the batter’s box. Newtown’s pitcher credited his fielders for his success in this one.
“Everything was good today — everything felt good, arm felt good. I had a great defense behind me,” said Curtis, noting that third baseman Evan Nikolas and Stasyshyn at short (on the final out) made nice grabs on hard-hit liners. “The whole game, defense really stepped up.”
D’Aprile had two hits, and Nikolas also had a base hit. Josh Rosen and Curtis worked walks.
The Nighthawks followed up this pitching gem by Curtis with another dominating mound effort in a 1-0 extra-inning win at Notre Dame-Fairfield on May 9. Burns started and threw six solid innings, striking out eight and allowing just two hits. Jake Hossler pitched three innings with six strikeouts and just one hit allowed. Nikolas walked with the bases loaded to drive in Curtis with the only run.
The Nighthawks got over the .500 mark for the first time this season at 8-7 overall and carried a three-game winning streak into the middle of May.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.