NEWTOWN — The coaches shook hands after Newtown’s 2-1 win over Stratford in the SWC baseball quarterfinals and laughed about how those three runs scored Wednesday.
Stratford scored its run at Nighthawks Ballpark on a wild pitch in the top of the third. Newtown scored in the sixth on a wild pitch and a suicide squeeze that didn’t quite go according to plan for either team.
“No base hit driving in a run. No error,” Stratford coach Mick Buckmir said. “It was an old-fashioned pitching duel. But, first day of the playoffs, both teams had their No. 1, I was expecting a game like this.”
It was a fun one to watch, Brendan Duffy throwing a brilliant game for the Red Devils, Kyle Roche in and out of trouble at times for top-seeded Newtown, but getting strikeout or a big defensive play to get out of it.
One of those plays ended the game after Braydon Seaburg doubled with two out in the top of the seventh. Newtown second baseman Michael Cotton dove to his left to come up with R.J. Burlone’s grounder.
“I tell you, Cotton over there: I told the kids, my head’s still spinning,” Newtown coach Ian Thoesen said. “This game could’ve gone either way.”
The defending SWC champions (16-5) will play fifth-seeded Notre Dame-Fairfield (15-6) in the semifinals, Thursday night at 7 at Bethel. Stratford (11-10), which was the SWC’s eighth seed, waits for the CIAC Class L playoffs.
Duffy had held the Nighthawks to one baserunner, a ground ball to left just off the glove of a diving Ryan Duffy, through five innings. He had retired 14 in a row.
Then Jack Miller led off the bottom of the sixth with a first-pitch single.
“I went up there looking for a fastball right away, because he was serving a lot of guys up first-pitch fastball,” Miller said. “I just went up and hit it.”
Cotton got a bunt down to sacrifice Miller to second, but an error allowed him to reach first. Todd Petersen got his bunt down to move the runners along.
“That one play,” Buckmir said. “We would get a guy on: We had a missed bunt where they got the runner (in the top of the fourth, at third base). They got a bunt, we didn’t execute.”
Miller scored on a wild pitch. With Josh Taylor up, Thoesen called for a suicide squeeze; the pitch got away, letting Cotton come in.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Newtown’s Michael Cotton got a bunt down in the bottom of the sixth, scored the winning run and made a diving play to end the game.
ON THE OTHER HAND
Duffy didn’t walk a batter and struck out nine.
“B-Duffy, that’s what he does for us,” Buckmir said. “Throws strikes. Keeps us in games. Challenges hitters. He can go against the best. Just tough luck.”
WAIT FOR IT
Miller said there wasn’t much concern in the Newtown dugout about getting the offense going Wednesday.
“We’ve been putting up 10 runs a game, and we’ve been outscoring teams every game,” Miller said. “It was only a matter of time until we started coming around.”
Masuk shut out the Nighthawks in Monday’s regular-season finale, the first time in 14 games that Newtown didn’t score at least five runs.
“It’s probably the best, in my 20 years of coaching, the best hitting team I’ve ever had,” Thoesen said.
“They’re a very good ballclub, but I did like my chances going in with my No. 1.” — Stratford coach Mick Buckmir
NEWTOWN 2, STRATFORD 1
STRATFORD001 000 0—1 4 1
NEWTOWN000 002 X—2 3 2
Records: Stratford 11-10; Newtown 16-5. Batteries: S—Brendan Duffy (L, 6-4) and R.J. Burlone; N—Kyle Roche (W, 6-0) and Ben Harrison.