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Newtown High School’s baseball team saw its conference title run season come to an end at the hands of host Fairfield Prep in the second round of the Class LL state tournament, on May 31. No. 5 Prep overcame an early deficit to move on with a 5-3 victory over No. 21 Newtown.
Dylan Champagne doubled, drove in a run, and scored; Jack Miller had a single, walk, and run batted in; Rob Murray singled and scored; Todd Petersen had a single, walk, and run scored; Jason Hebner had a hit, and Rob Lombardo scored a run.
The Nighthawks seized a 2-0 lead in the second inning, doing all of their damage with two outs. Petersen singled and was brought home on Champagne’s two-bagger to center field, and Murray followed with a run-scoring single to center.
Prep answered with two runs in the bottom half of the frame and went ahead 3-2 in the third.
Newtown tied the score in the fifth when Miller walked with the bases loaded, following two hit batsmen which sandwiched Hebner’s single. The Hawks couldn’t produce any more runs and Prep got two in the bottom of the sixth and held on.
Starting pitcher Kyle Roche and reliever Orlando Swift combined to strike out seven Prep batters, but the Jesuits also accumulated nine hits and seven walks against the typically stingy Nighthawk pitching.
Despite the outcome, it was a season to remember for the Nighthawks who, as the seventh seed in the South-West Conference tournament, caught fire in the SWC playoffs on their way to a conference title.
“I’m so proud of these guys. They have accomplished so much this year and are going to be hungrier next year. I told these guys we want to build a culture and we have done that,” said Ian Thoesen, Newtown’s first-year head coach.
The highlight of Newtown’s spring was when the Nighthawks defeated their foes/friends from Bethel in the SWC title game. Players from rival schools come together to compete on the same team, the Bethel Post 100 Admirals, in the summer American Legion Baseball program each summer.
Admirals Coach Josh Hull, who was on hand for the title game, which was held at Bethel High, noted that 12 of the 18 players on the field are in the Admirals’ program, on either the 17U or 19U teams. Hull had strong rooting interest in the game, but certainly wasn’t taking sides.
“I’m totally neutral and I was watching the game from the exact central point of the field behind home plate,” Hull said. “I’m rooting for players, not rooting for teams. I can’t tell you how much I’ve looked forward to this game.”
“It just makes it more competitive when you play guys you know,” Murray said following Newtown’s 8-0 triumph over Bethel in the May 24 title game. “In the end we’re teammates, but not tonight. Tonight we’re champions.”
“Amazing,” Newtown second baseman Will Huegi said of earning bragging rights against his spring season opponents/ summer teammates.
Bethel went on to earn the No. 11 seed in the Class L state bracket and, after a first-round win, was eliminated 7-4 by another SWC rival, No. 27 New Fairfield.
Now the offseason begins as the Newtown and Bethel players reunite in the same dugouts. The summer slate gets underway on Friday, June 9, as the 19U Admirals visit Waterbury for a 7:30 pm first pitch, then head to the home field at Bethel High to host Monroe on Sunday, June 11, starting at 4 pm. The 17U squad hosts Oakville on Tuesday, June 13, beginning at 5:45 pm.