WEST HARTFORD>> Connor Dunn made his first start of the season for Northwest Catholic on Thursday, but didn’t show any signs of rust.
The senior, headed to Williams College next year, threw a complete game, allowed eight hits, one for extra-bases and two runs as the Indians beat Conard, 6-2 at Northwest Catholic High School.
Dunn battled elbow tendinitis early in the season and has slowly progressed, making a couple of relief appearances, but hadn’t started yet in 2014.
“We feel bad for the kid,” Northwest Catholic coach Cory Carlson said. “Trying to work him in wherever you can and obviously his plan and our plan isn’t having our No. 3 guy, who’s going to pitch in college, make his first start in game 15. But it’s what you have to do to keep the kid healthy. He was ready to go and he gave us a huge lift today for what we needed.”
The righty located his 2-seam fastball jamming right-handed hitters, getting Conard to hit into 13 ground ball outs.
“He was pounding the zone, he was throwing strikes, something that we really needed,” his catcher, Tyler Waitt, said.
Dunn got the top three hitters in the Conard order to ground out in each of their first two at-bats.
The offense picked him up the the fifth breaking a 1-1 tie since the second.
The Indians sent 10 batters to the plate and half of them scored.
“It’s not that we’re making that many mistakes,” Conard coach Ty Bongiovanni said. “It’s just that the games we lose, [they] just happen to be at exactly the right time.”
Dylan Robinson had the big blow with a two RBI single to right which scored Brendan MacCallum, who led off the inning with a walk and Evan Michalek.
“A couple of the kids swung the bats there and got some big hits to get us going and we played our type of game,” Carlson said. “We get a lead, pitch ahead, throw strikes and that was kind of the game plan and we executed it today.”
Robinson stole second and third and scored when Thomas Meucci drove the ball to deep right, past a diving Jonathan Zelinger for three bases.
“We’ve been scuffling,” Carlson said. “Everybody knows it. We’ve been struggling to score runs. we’ve been struggling to play defense. We’ve been struggling to pitch, but today everything kind of came together and that’s the good thing about baseball.”
The six runs scored Thursday for Northwest Catholic was its most since nine in a loss to Granby Memorial on April 24 and the most in a win since the Indians scored 25 against RHAM on April 14.
Conard, which was playing its fourth game in as many days, got most of its production from the bottom of the order.
Max Vogel-Freedman, the No. 9 hitter, drove in the run in the second with a single to left and scored the run in the seventh.
The first baseman walked and Alex White got him to third with the Chieftains only extra-base hit of the game, a double to right. Pinch hitter PJ Melly drove Vogel-Freedman in with a single to left.
The final out of the game was a line drive right back at Dunn who snared the ball to end it.
Northwest Catholic ended a five-game skid and in the process picked up its eighth win of the season, qualifying for the Class S state tournament.
“They responded today, but they have to respond the next game now,” Carlson said. “Not just be content with 8-7 and say, ‘All right, lets go 8-12, we’re in the tournament.’ You go 12-8, 13-7, maybe you get a home game and then maybe you avoid some of those top guys in the first round and you’re playing them the second or third round. Then with our pitchers cranking at full throttle, you never know. I like our chances.”
Conard is two wins away from the state tournament with five game left, all home games, with the final two being played at the University of Hartford and Eastern Connecticut State University.
“I feel like we’re getting better,” Bongiovanni said. “I don’t know if we played like it, but we’re better at the end of this week than we were at the end of last week.”
Northwest Catholic hosts CCC West opponent Simsbury on Monday.
Conard: 010 000 1 — 2 8 1
Northwest Catholic: 100 050 0 — 6 7 0
WP: Connor Dunn; LP: John Woods
RBI: C–Vogel-Freedman, Melly. NWC–Angelini (2), Robinson (2), Meucci, Waitt.
Records: Conard 6-9 (5-5 CCC West), Northwest Catholic 8-7 (5-4 CCC West).