SWC baseball semifinals
BETHEL — In the space of five pitches, the 4-0 lead the Bethel baseball team built during its SWC semifinal against Barlow was gone.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, they weren’t done hitting.
Brushing off a bases-clearing double proved no issue for Bethel, which downed eighth-seeded Barlow 9-4 on Wednesday at Hunt Field. The Wildcats will face another potential Cinderella in No. 6 Weston — which beat Masuk 3-1 in the early game — back at Hunt Field on Friday night at 7 p.m. in search for their second straight SWC title.
Last season carried expectations for Bethel, but integrating several new starters lifted the school to the same destination. It’s the third straight year the Wildcats have made the final.
“It’s where we belong, right?” said Wildcats coach Ray Turek. “Three years in a row is nice; it’s been very different teams over the past three years. We showed some faults over the course of the season and some of them popped up but our bats got hot and bailed us out.”
Pete Baia provided the key hit, a single in the fourth inning that scored two runs after an error and broke the tie for good. The Wildcats soon broke it open and booked a spot in the title game. George Viebrock had a two-run single for Bethel, which got contributions across the entire lineup. Nick Vieira pitched 6 and-two-thirds innings for the win.
“Some of these guys are in this situation for the first time,” Turek said. “We went through a cold spell and trying to work on simplifying things a little. It’s starting to show, we’ve been swinging the bats better the past few games.”
No. 4 Bethel was down to its last out in the quarterfinals against Stratford, but no such heroics were required Wednesday. The Wildcats socked 11 hits, including five during a three-run fifth inning.
“When we’re down and can string the hits together, put the ball in play, good things happen,” Baia said. “When we have every guy on this team doing that, good things are going to happen for us.”
The Falcons claimed a 2-1 upset win over Newtown in the last round to reach the semifinals. Rory Lynch hit the three-run double that tied the game at 4-4. Starter Clark Gilmore then struck out the side in the third to give Barlow momentum, but Bethel took it back almost immediately.
“We felt like we had the momentum at that point,” Barlow coach Matt Griffiths said. “In the late innings we didn’t take care of the baseball like we should, and unfortunately against a team like this at this time of the year you can’t get away with a lot of mistakes.”
Just like Barlow, Weston went 9-11 during the regular season. But that hasn’t hindered the Trojans from winning in the postseason.
A day after completing a remarkable comeback against New Milford, the Trojans shut down Masuk 3-1 to reach Friday’s final. Andrew Amato went 2-for-3 for Weston while Myles Bochanis drove in a run. Alex Olsen pitched a five-hitter with four strikeouts.
Masuk scored the game’s first run before Weston rallied with one in the fifth and two in the sixth to snatch the upset.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Pete Baia, Bethel: Had the key hit and threw a runner out trying to steal second.
“We told the kids after the game that we’re not done and we have the state tournament starting next week,” Griffiths said. “The most important thing we have to do is put this behind us and move forward.”
BETHEL 9, BARLOW 4
BARLOW004 000 0 — 4 5 4
BETHEL130 230 X — 9 11 3
Batteries: Ba—Clark Gilmore, Henry Iuzzolino and Troy Andreoli. Be—Nick Vieira, Stefano DiMeglio and Pete Baia. Highlights: Ba—Rory Lynch hit a three-run double. Be—Shawn Sato had two hits. Pete Baia drove in two runs. Jack Carraturo and Cole Strang doubled.
WESTON 3, MASUK 1
WESTON000 012 0 — 3 5 1
MASUK000 100 0 — 1 5 1