WINSTED — Undefeated Northwestern (7-0) pulled out a 3-2 win over Thomaston (5-3; 4-3 Berkshire League) in a gem tailor-made for home-town fans at Northwestern High School Tuesday afternoon.
“When they needed to get a hit, they did; when we needed to, we didn’t,” Thomaston first-year coach Craig Prasauckas said.
That describes Noah McDonald’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. Before that, heroes covered the field on both sides, beginning with the complete-game pitchers.
Highlander Casey Weingart (2 earned runs, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts, 4 walks) and Golden Bear Isaiah Johnson (1 earned run, 7 hits, 2 strikeouts, 2 walks) zipped through the first three innings with just one hit between them, a first-inning single by Northwestern’s Drew Warren.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Alex Mentone smacked Thomaston’s first hit through the right side before Weingart hit Ian Bethin with a pitch. Golden Bears sophomore Ryan Bethin then lofted a two-run double into a strong wind over right fielder Garrett Austin’s head.
The same wind caught up with Thomaston’s Johnson in the bottom of the inning.
“He had just thrown me a curve, so I knew a fastball was coming,” Northwestern leadoff batxter Drew Warren said.
The fastball came. Warren sent it to deep left center for a triple and scored on an error on the relay from center.
With a 2-1 Thomaston lead fluttering in the wind, defensive heroes rose up on both sides.
The Bears already ended one would-be Highlander rally with a double-play in the third inning. They limited Warren’s fourth-inning offense to one run with another, then filed their third straight double play in the fifth after a lead-off single by Austin.
Northwestern’s Casey got out of back-to-back jams in the fifth and sixth with similar help from his defense.
In the fifth, a sacrifice bunt, ground-out to third and called third strike erased lead-off walks to Brendan Fainer and Matt Fabiano.
In the top of the sixth, a Northwestern double play and a strikeout erased a leadoff walk by Mentone and a hit by Ian Bethin.
In the bottom of the sixth, Northwestern’s Warren led off with a rifle shot to third for an error. Joe Grantmeyer and freshman Alberto Cantalini followed with hits to bring Warren home.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh, Weingart took the mound with 96 pitches used up in the CIAC’s limit of 110.
“I went out with my mind all over the place,” said Weingart, a senior. “I was thinking more about staying in the game than getting guys out. My teammates calmed me down.”
With one out, Thomaston’s Fabiano doubled to left and Keegan Daigle sacrificed him to third before Northwestern coach Jim Davidson called for an intentional walk to Drew Colavecchio. Shortstop Mike Bobinski hit into a fielder’s choice for the final out.
In Northwestern’s last chance, Austin, seventh in the Highlander batting order, led off with a line single to right. Zach West sacrificed him to second; McDonald fired a worm burner up the middle.
Austin raced home to a celebration straight out of a CIAC championship video.
“I have to give it to (Austin and West) for getting into position,” McDonald said. “I just waited for a good pitch and got it.”
“Our pitchers have done their job in every game,” said Thmaston’s Prasauckas. “(Johnson) deserved the win…but that’s baseball.”