BETHEL — Monday afternoon’s game ended a heck of a lot better than it started for Bethel High School senior baseball player Tyler Davis.
Davis, who started on the mound and surrendered four runs in the first inning, later delivered a walk-off, run-scoring triple to lift the Wildcats to a thrilling 7-6 victory over Newtown in a non-conference clash between two perennial contenders in the South-West Conference.
“I was just trying to put a good bat on the ball,” Davis said of his hit, a titanic shot to deep center field. “I hit it on a line, and I thought it was going right to the center fielder, but it just kept carrying.”
To his credit, Davis settled down nicely after the rocky start. The Wildcats’ bats answered with five runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead, and Davis tossed three consecutive scoreless innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen to start the fifth inning.
“Hopefully we learn that you can recover from crooked numbers early,” Bethel coach Ray Turek said. “Tyler did a good job getting us through four innings. That was huge. Once he reset and got things going, he was very good.”
Davis walked three — all in the first inning — and allowed three hits while striking out seven. After the first inning, he allowed only one base-runner.
“After that first inning, I wasn’t happy with myself,” Davis said. “I was just trying to do what I had to do to get my team back in the game. I didn’t want to cost my team the game with that first inning.”
Stefano DiMeglio had two singles and two runs batted in for Bethel (1-1). Noah Jensen had an RBI single and an RBI sacrifice fly. Liam Ford drew two walks and scored two runs.
For Newtown (2-2), Josh Taylor singled, walked twice and scored a run. Luke Melillo laced a two-run single to put Newtown up 4-0 in the top of the first. Eugene Citrano plated a run with a sacrifice fly.
“I told the guys, it comes down to the little things,” Newtown coach Ian Thoesen said. “They capitalized on our mistakes. That’s basically what it was.”
THE HOT CORNER
Newtown trailed 6-5 in the sixth when Harry Eppers led off with a towering blast to center field that went for a stand-up double. Pinch-runner Cassagrande stole third. With Cassagrande at third and the Bethel infield drawn in with one out, Melillo belted a scorching liner to third base that Jack Carraturo snared with a back-hand stab. Had that ball gotten past Carraturo and down the left-field line, the game would have been tied and the Nighthawks would have likely had the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out.
Newtown scored the tying run in the top of the seventh when pinch-hitter James Heran led off with a walk and pinch-runner Harry Lucas took second on a passed ball and third on a sacrifice fly by Todd Petersen before scampering home on a wild pitch.
Jensen, who earned the victory in relief, then worked out of a one-on, one-out jam to keep the game tied headed to the bottom of the seventh.
Clay Thunhorst led off the Bethel seventh with a single up the middle. Davis then delivered the winning hit.
Both teams made some sparkling plays in the field.
In the midst of Newtown’s big first inning, Ford made two big plays for Bethel in left field. He made a sensational running catch in the left-field corner for the first out of the inning, and later ended the inning by throwing a runner out at the plate with a laser to catcher Brian Ridzik.
The Wildcats turned a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth — Thunhorst to Andy Ridzik to Jaxon Millett — to help escape a two-on, no-out jam with minimal damage.
Newtown center fielder made a fantastic, over-the-shoulder catch in the gap in right-center in the fourth inning.
Nighthawks shortstop Todd Petersen ended the fifth inning, making a slick, back-handed stop in the hole and firing a rocket to first for the out.
Bethel 7, Newtown 6
NEWTOWN 400 010 1 — 6 6 0
BETHEL 501 000 1 — 7 8 3
Records: Newtown 2-2; Bethel 1-1. Batteries: Nt—Orlando Swift, Connor Haywood (1), Sam Smith (3), Josh Taylor (6, L, 0-1) and Ben Harrison; Be—Tyler Davis, Justin Tomaino (5), Noah Jensen (7, W, 1-1) and Brian Ridzik.