FALLS VILLAGE >> When Northwestern’s Zach Risedorf stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning to face Housatonic’s Willy Yahn, it was something that neither head coach, who both have spent some time in the Berkshire League, have never seen.
“That’s probably the first time in my career to see two guys, going to that high levels of college, pitching and batting against each other,” said Northwestern’s co-head coach Tom Germano, who is in his 11th season coaching the Highlanders, of the two seniors committed to play at, his alma mata, UConn next season.
“It’s great for the Berkshire League, I haven’t seen two kids that are going to that kind of school in this little league,” said Housatonic head coach Daryl Morhardt who played at Gilbert.
Risedorf and Yahn’s relationship goes beyond the fact that they will both be Huskies next season or that they have played against each other in the Berkshire League for four years.
They’re very close friends, their families are close and they have been playing together on summer teams since they were 12 years old, but this was the first time since their sophomore year and since they both signed to play at UConn that the two faced off, one on one and it would happen three times.
“It’s a little (special),” Risedorf said. “We’re so close, but I had to treat it like he was any other pitcher.”
“They gave each other a hug before the game and after the game,” Morhardt said. “They want to beat each other so bad.”
In the first, after taking a couple a pitches, Risedorf roped a line drive base hit to left field, looking over at Yahn after he reached first.
“Just a little smirk,” Risedorf said.
“Zach’s the best hitter I have ever seen,” Yahn said. “I definitely hung a slider and anything that’s not a perfect pitch; he’s going to mash it.”
In their second meeting, in the third inning, after Northwestern’s Joey Colombie hit a triple and scored on the relay throw going out of play, Yahn got Risedorf to pop out to second base.
It wasn’t just pitcher vs. batter where to two would clash.
After leading off the fourth with a walk, Yahn did what very few players in do, straight steal on Risedorf.
He made it safely.
“Yeah it was (his call),” Yahn said. “Every game that he’s catching and I get on I run on him. Other times, I’ve stolen he said it was a passed ball, so today was the first time I’ve straight stole on him.”
Yahn would score on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.
In the third and final meeting between them Risedorf would jump on Yahn off-speed pitch, but Housatonic’s Justin Dean made a diving catch on the first base line saving an extra base hit for Risedorf.
In three trips, Risedorf hit two balls hard, got one hit (1-for-3) and Yahn (complete game, one earned run and nine strikeouts) got him to pop out and got some help on the third at bat, a fairly even day between the two.
Yahn would get the final say though at the plate.
After allowing a long homerun to Joey Colombie to tie the game in top of the fifth, Yahn would lead off the bottom of the fifth with a long homerun of his own, giving the Mountaineers a one run lead which they would add to and hold on to beat the Highlanders, 4-2.
“I felt like I had to do something big,” Yahn said.
The Mountaineers and the Highlanders play one more time this season on May 21 at Northwestern and Risedorf hopes for one more go around before they head off to Storrs in the fall.
“It was good to face him, hopefully I will see him again,” Risedorf said.
But until then Yahn has bragging rights.
“We share texts all the time and he’s been getting us for a couple of years, for now I have a few,” Yahn laughed. “It’s fun to share moments like this.”
Housatonic 4, Northwestern 2
Northwestern 001 010 0 — 2 5 2
Housatonic 000 220 X — 4 6 0
Nate Tancreti, Zach Risedorf; Willy Yahn, Chris Vernali.
WP: Willy Yahn (). LP: Nate Tancreti (). 3B: (NW) Joey Colombie. HR: Joey Colombie (NW); Willy Yahn (HOU); RBI: Colombie (NW); Yahn, Chris Vernali (2) (HOU);
Team records: Northwestern 5-2; Housatonic 4-3.