WOODBURY — If Northwestern’s 11-10 season-opening win at Nonnewaug Monday afternoon is a fair indicator, fasten your seatbelts.
Berkshire League baseball is headed for a wildly entertaining ride, with an emphasis on the wild.
“Everybody hit,” said Northwestern co-coach Kevin Nelligan. “I’ve never seen the ball carry so much.”
“Both teams ripped the ball today,” Nonnewaug coach Frank Melillo said. “It’s usually the pitchers who start out ahead, but I think everyone played well today.”
Indeed, hitters burst into flames in the first inning, accounting for a combined seven runs (4-3 Nonnewaug) in a game exploding with a combined nine extra-base hits (5-4 Northwestern).
No lead was safe right through the final out with Chiefs perched on first and third fully expecting to take back the game.
If big hits carried the day, great defensive plays and pitchers throwing strikes when they had to saved it.
Double plays limited the damage in the first two innings.
Nonnewaug first baseman Evan Kachur snagged a line drive and stepped on the bag to end Northwestern’s three-run start.
A classic 6-4-3 grounder ended Nonnewaug’s four-run comeback in the bottom of the inning.
Down 4-3 in the second, Northwestern center fielder Garrett Austin caught a line drive and threw a perfect strike to home plate, keeping the Chiefs in sight.
Clinging to a 6-5 lead in the top of the fourth, Chiefs left fielder Jim Parker dove for a shoe-top line drive, ending a Highlander rally with the prettiest catch of the season in the very first game.
Through it all, a combined five pitchers (3-2 Northwestern) soldiered on, sometimes throwing more strikes than they should have.
“My velocity wasn’t there and I didn’t trust my curve until the third inning,” said Northwestern’s Drew Warren, sticking It out through five innings for the win.
“I just tried to throw strikes,” said Highlander closer Levi Delaney, after inducing a pop foul for the final out.
None of it discounts the hitting.
Nonnewaug won the numbers game, 15-11. Jarrett Michaels was 5-for-5 with a double, beating out a two-out grounder in the bottom of the seventh to keep Nonnewaug’s comeback hopes alive after Mitch Abramovich, 3-for-4 with a triple, drove in his third run of the day. Joe Rupe was 2-for-3.
But, if Nonnewaug had hit numbers, Northwestern had timeliness and distance. The Highlanders scored their three first-inning runs on just two hits — an RBI double by Delaney (3-for-5) and a two-run single by Mike Bobinski.
After starting Chiefs pitcher Sam Williams and reliever Matt Sibilia loaded the bases on three walks in the top of the fifth, Spencer Green, ninth in the Highlander batting order, vaulted Northwestern into an 8-7 lead with a three-run triple.
Next inning, sophomore Jake Risdorf, in his first at-bat of the year, slammed a two-run triple, ultimately winning the game for Northwestern.
Leadoff Highlander Noah McDonald was 3-for-4.
And the ride has just begun.