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Trio Of NHS Pitchers Shut Down Foes En Route To Title-Nighthawks Pound Panthers 18-1 To Win SWC Championship



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Trio Of NHS Pitchers Shut Down Foes En Route To Title—

Nighthawks Pound Panthers 18-1 To Win SWC Championship

By Andy Hutchison

BETHEL — They were matched up against one of the top teams in the state, a Pomperaug of Southbury team that had handed the Nighthawks their share of heart-breaking setbacks in playoff games in recent years. Newtown High School’s baseball team, however, proved that an underdog can become the top dog — and did so in thoroughly convincing fashion — toppling Pomperaug 18-1 in the South-West Conference championship game under the lights at Bethel High on May 26.

The third-seeded Nighthawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, established a little breathing room in the middle to late frames, then blew things wide open with a whopping 11 spot in the seventh en route to their first conference crown since 2009. The game, originally scheduled for May 24, was pushed back a day when rain postponed the start of the tournament earlier in the week. It was put on hold for one more day after heavy rains flooded the field on May 25.

The Nighthawks, if they weren’t before, are now firm believers that good things come to those who wait. And we’re not just talking about the tourney games being put on hold this week.

Newtown’s sluggers have waited a while to defeat their SWC rivals in the win-or-go-home situations. Pomperaug, a proverbial thorn in the side of the Hawks in recent seasons, knocked Newtown out of the state tournament in 2010 and eliminated them from both the SWC and state tournaments last spring. The Panthers also won two regular-season meetings this year. The games had always been close, but not this time when the Nighthawks finally broke through.

“They’ve owned us — since I’ve been here they’ve owned us,” said third-year NHS Coach Matt Memoli, adding that the win is a testament to his players’ positive attitudes and great work ethic.

Top-seeded Pomperaug, which had only one loss this season, and enters into the Class LL State Tournament as the No. 2 team, had not allowed more than seven runs in a game this spring — nevermind 11 in one inning. The Panthers, in addition to allowing by far the highest run total by an opponent, were held to their lowest run total, as Newtown pitcher and championship Most Valuable Player Brandon Marks hurled a complete-game effort in which he scattered seven hits and struck out three batters.

“It feels great — SWC champs finally. It’s great to bring the SWC championship back,” said Marks, who added that his fastball, with the velocity at its best this spring, was a key to his success on the mound. Marks also attributed his ability to stymie a Pomperaug offense that had scored eight or more runs ten times this season to his slider along with the work of battery mate/catcher Mike Allwein, whom he said called a great game.

Memoli said he was excited to have Marks on the mound because of the pitcher’s mindset. “He doesn’t really get fazed in big situations. He just kind of goes out there and does the job,” the coach said. Memoli was thrilled with his pitching throughout the tournament run.

Kyle Wilcox, who pitched six solid innings in the SWC quarterfinal-round win over Stratford on May 23 (a game in which he compiled a dozen strikeouts and got some offense help from Casey Tenney who had two hits and a pair of runs batted in), did his damage with the bat this time around, going 4-for-4 with two singles, a double, and a triple, and three runs batted in.

Mike Davis, who followed with six strong innings of his own in the May 24 semifinal-round win over Oxford, also contributed to the offensive fireworks show with a 2-for-4 night (both doubles). Rich Sandler also went 2-for-4 with a single, double, and two runs batted in.

“It means everything. This is what we’ve been working for all year,” Wilcox said. “We’re all best friends here and that makes it even better.”

The Panthers were not at their best, committing numerous fielding errors to help open the flood gates for a Newtown offense that didn’t really need any assistance.

A Wilcox single and Davis RBI double, along with a Pomperaug error, staked Newtown to a 2-0 first-inning lead. It stayed that way until the fifth. Wilcox corked a one-out run-scoring triple to left for a 3-0 lead and scored on a wild pitch. Davis doubled and scored on a hard-hit single by just inside the bag at first by Sandler to make it 5-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, Marks worked around a leadoff bunt single and the Hawks extended their lead to 7-0 in their next at bat. Wilcox drove in a run with a single up the middle and an error allowed another Hawk to cross home plate.

In the bottom of the sixth, Marks almost escaped unscathed but a Pomperaug player beat out a near inning-ending double play ball to extend the inning and allow the only run Marks would allow to score.

Already seemingly in control of this game, with a six-run cushion and just three outs to go, the Hawks made sure their would be no comeback by batting around in the seventh with hits, patience leading to walks and the benefit of a handful of Pomperaug miscues. Evan Noonan walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, Andy Kelley drove in a run with a single, Wilcox had a two-run single, Davis smacked a two-run single, and Allwein also drove in a run with a single in the frame.

Memoli said its great to see the reward after so much hard work. A former assistant at Yale University, Memoli says he runs the Newtown program like a college program — beginning with before-school runs in the offseason.

The Nighthawks won their semifinal round game in similar fashion to their championship game triumph, blowing the game open late with a huge inning. The Nighthawks scored nine runs in the sixth inning en route to a 14-2 triumph over No. 7 Oxford.

The Nighthawks scored five runs in the second inning — all with two outs — and never looked back. Sandler doubled to begin the rally, and Tenney followed with a run-scoring triple, one of a trio of three-baggers hit by the Newtowners in this game. Allwein delivered an RBI single and after David Lucia reached, Noonan capped the second-frame scoring with a two-run triple.

After Oxford got to within 5-2 with a pair of runs in the third, Davis shut down the opponents en route to six strong innings for the win. Davis struck out seven batters. Reliever Mike Koch sealed the win with a scoreless seventh.

In the bottom of the sixth, Allwein provided an RBI single for a 6-2 lead. Lucia crushed a two-run triple to dead center field to make it 8-2. The runs kept coming. Noonan, robbed of an extra-base hit, settled for a sacrifice fly and RBI for a 9-2 cushion. Davis helped his own cause by driving in two more runs with a double to left, making it 11-2. Justin DeVellis added an RBI single, Allwein had his second run-producing hit of the inning with a bloop single inside the right field line. Lucia had a bases loaded walk to force in the final run.

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