NORTH HAVEN — High on the backstop behind home plate is a large banner letting visitors know they are at Robert DeMayo Field.
Usually, the honoree is in the first base dugout, calling all the shots as he has for the last 56 seasons. But Wednesday afternoon, DeMayo missed opening day for what might have been the first time as he is home recovering from surgery to repair a torn quad tendon he suffered from a fall.
Still, without their veteran leader, North Haven played DeMayo baseball with good pitching, plenty of defense and timely hitting in a 2-1 victory over Guilford.
“It’s always nice to win the first game this year even with a little different circumstances with Coach DeMayo down,” said Mocchie Dagliere, who is running the team until DeMayo returns. “He’s working hard to get ready to come back when he can and we’re working hard to prep the team the way he would. It’s different not having him on the field.”
North Haven’s Jeff Cunningham and Guilford’s Luke Nerney hooked up in a scoreless duel until the bottom of the fourth inning when North Haven broke through.
“Luke pitched very well and did what we asked,” Guilford coach Brian Hayden said. “He didn’t have all his pitches and did it all off his fastball.”
Chris Brockett walked with one out and went to second on Trent Dillon’s single to left center. After Rich DePalma’s fly ball moved Brockett to third, Ryan Harger laced a Nerney fastball that stayed up in the strike zone to score two runs.
“I was looking fastball right down the plate,” Harger said. “I had the take sign on the first pitch and I had a couple pitches I didn’t love. Then he gave me a fastball on the outer half of the plate and I took it that way.”
Guilford had had a chance to go ahead in the second inning, but Alex Potucsny was gunned down at the plate trying to score on P.J. Ciocca’s double to right.
“That was a big momentum shifter there,” Cunningham said. “My teammates bailed me out.”
After that, Guilford was held to just one hit until the top of the sixth inning. With two outs, Guilford rallied when Joey Nault walked and then Mike Alfetra reached on an infield hit. Potucsny followed with a single to right, scoring Nault, but the rally ended there.
Dom Fusco came on in relief for North Haven in the seventh inning and retired Guilford in order.
“I didn’t like our approach at the plate today,” Hayden said. “I didn’t think we were aggressive enough. We need a better approach at the plate. When you give up two runs, you should win the game.”