Millet wins it for Bethel in the ninth
BETHEL — Another day, another walk-off win for the Bethel High School baseball team.
Just four days after edging New Fairfield with a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning at Hunt Field, the never-say-die Wildcats did it again on Monday, this time topping Masuk 2-1 on Jaxon Millet’s bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
“We’ve got a big heart,” Millet said. “We all want to push to be our best and get as far as we can as a team, so we’re all working together.”
The wins over New Fairfield and Masuk were both non-conference games, but they both involved teams which could very well be in contention in the South-West Conference later this spring.
“That was a very good baseball game by both teams,” Bethel coach Ray Turek said. “(Masuk is) definitely one of the better teams in the league. They have a good lineup, and a couple good pitchers, who we saw today. Both of those guys were outstanding. They threw strikes, and they have swing-and-miss stuff. We expect to see them in the playoffs.”
Millet went 3-for-5 with three singles — a heck of a day at the plate for the Wildcats’ designated hitter — although he felt compelled to point out his two missed opportunities earlier in the game. He grounded out to third base to end the fifth inning with runners on first and third, and he struck out to end the seventh inning with runners on first and second. Given a third opportunity to break the 1-1 tie, Millet came up big and laced a sharp single up the middle on a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded, two outs and the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the ninth.
“I had two opportunities to get a clutch hit, and I didn’t come through. I felt bad for my team,” Millet said. “I got up with the bases loaded and two outs, and I just knew, this is my count, this is my pitch and I have to do it for my boys. I went up with that approach and swung away.”
And while Millet may have stolen the show, the efforts of both teams’ pitchers shouldn’t be overlooked. This was a pitcher’s duel between some of the finest arms in the SWC.
Jack Rose started on the mound for Masuk and worked six solid innings, striking out seven and walking one while scattering six hits. Luke Shaffer came on in place of Rose to start the eventh inning and went the rest of the way, striking out three, walking three and allowing two hits.
“We’ve been getting a solid job out of all our pitchers this year,” Masuk coach Ralph Franco said. “The last couple games, we’ve been leaving a bunch of guys on base, and that’s what happened today. We didn’t come up with the key hit.”
For Bethel, Justin Tomaino started and pitched the first four innings, striking out two, walking two and allowing one hit. Tyler Davis came on in relief to start the fifth and pitched the next three innings, striking out four, walking one and surrendering three hits. Ben Brod pitched the eighth and ninth, striking out four and allowing one hit.
“We felt like that was one of our strengths,” Turek said. “We have some depth in our pitching staff, and we showed that today.”
Bethel took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Kyle Brelling’s towering fly ball with one out was misplayed in the Masuk outfield and went for a triple. Brelling then scored on a perfectly placed bunt by Brian Ridzik.
Masuk tied it in the fifth. Kevin Papscoe led off with a line-drive single into center field, and was replaced by pinch-runner Max Shamas. Shamas later scored on Nick Lorusso’s two-out single up the middle.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, Brod hustled out an infield single. It may not have seemed like much at the time, but it was all the spark the Wildcats needed. Shawn Sato replaced Brod as a pinch runner at first base. Brelling followed with a single up the middle, and the speedy Sato rounded second and beat the throw to third. Ridzik followed with a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Millet’s heroics. Sato scampered home from third with the winning run.
Also for Masuk, Patrick Lazzarro had two singles and Shaffer drew two walks.
For Bethel, Liam Ford had a double, and Ridzik — the hero of Thursday’s win over New Fairfield with his game-winning, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh — drew two walks Monday.
BETHEL 2, MASUK 1
MASUK000 010 000 — 1 5 0
BETHEL001 000 001 — 2 8 0
Records: Masuk 5-2; Bethel 5-2. Batteries: M—Jack Rose, Luke Shaffer (7, L) and Enzo Merlonghi; Be—Justin Tomaino, Tyler Davis (5), Ben Brod (8, W) and Steve Smith. SO: Rose 7, Shaffer 3; Tomaino 2, Davis 4, Brod 4. BB: Rose 1, Shaffer 3; Tomaino 2, Davis 1. 2B: Liam Ford (Be). 3B: Kyle Brelling (Be). RBI: M—Nick Lorusso; Be—Brian Ridzik, Jaxon Millet.