MIDDLETOWN >> It’s never a good idea to walk the leadoff man, especially in the late innings.
But that’s what Guilford pitcher Alex Petocsy did in the bottom of the sixth inning with his team leading by a run. Xavier made him pay. The Falcons went on to score two runs following the walk and beat Guilford, 4-3, in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivisional game played at Palmer Field Friday afternoon.
“A leadoff walk will hurt you every time,” said Guilford coach Brian Hayden. “Can’t give an offense like Xavier’s that free pass.”
Will Garrity worked the walk and that was followed by a booming triple to the wall in left center by Alex Parkos that nearly cleared the fence some 380 feet away as pinch-runner Sam Lane scored easily.
Luke Nerney relieved Petocsy and, after getting an out on a comebacker, gave up a double to Pat Downey that drove home Parkos with what proved to be the winning run.
“I was happy to win the game,” said Magner. “We didn’t bunt with Parkos because he has been hitting the ball and hitting with power. We gambled and he nearly hit it out. But we played terribly otherwise. They outplayed us and we were lucky to win.”
It was the Falcons’ play on defense that fueled Magner’s anger. All three runs off winning pitcher Nick Rascati (4-0) were unearned.
“Defensively we should not have caught that popup that allowed a run to score,” said Magner. “We didn’t field a bunt. We kicked balls and we didn’t charge ground balls in the wet grass after we told kids about that. I thought we played without much energy, too. We can’t play this way and win. We’re not good enough to do that.”
Guilford took a 2-0 first-inning lead and it began with an error. Shortstop Lawrence Hill waited on a ground ball by leadoff hitter Mike Afeltra and proceeded to throw it wide of first for an error. T.J. Williams followed with a bunt between Rascati and first baseman Parkos. Both went for the ball and no one covered first.
The Indians then executed the double steal, which allowed Afeltra to score on P.J. Ciocca’s grounder to short. Tyler Donovan singled home the second run.
Xavier (8-5) tied the game in the second. Downey opened with a single and stole second. He went to third on a ground ball and scored on Chris Cardi’s ground out to third. Nick Roy walked and scored from first base on Andre Marchesseault’s double.
Both Petocsy – who was making his first start of the season – and Rascati settled down until Guilford (3-8) broke through for a run in the fifth that was set up by an error, this time by third baseman C.J. Caprio.
Caprio made a bad throw on Christian Treiber’s ground ball and Treiber motored to second on the play. After Afeltra walked, T.J. Williams bunted the runners up. The tie-breaking run scored when second baseman Marchesseault made a diving catch of a foul popup and Treiber tagged and easily beat the throw home.
But the Indians couldn’t hold the lead.
“This feels like one that got away,” said Hayden. “I thought we played well enough to win. I thought Petocsy pitched well. He is also our starting catcher, so it’s a balancing act between using him as a catcher and as a pitcher. But we’ve been keeping him in shape throwing on the side. Then today we also had kids taking Advanced Placement tests, and they arrived during the game. Still, I thought we outplayed them.”
Rascati gave up four hits, struck out six, walked two and hit a batter. Petocsy was charged with all four runs, gave up five hits, struck out three and walked two in five innings plus. He retired 10 Falcons in a row from the second through the fifth inning. Then came the walk that was his undoing.
Parkos and Downey each had two hits and an RBI.
Xavier plays Guilford again at North Branford High School today at 2 p.m..