Pictured: Xavier baseball coach Nick Cerreta, left, and his players shown prior to the start of Tuesday’s game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford. (Photo courtesy of Xavier High School)
For Xavier, maybe the one thing worthy of topping the experience of playing a game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park is winning a game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The Falcons got to do both on Tuesday.
“It was a good day, a super fun day,” coach Nick Cerreta said after the Falcons defeated Jonathan Law 9-1 in front of a couple hundred fans at the home of the Hartford Yard Goats.
Senior right-hander Tiernan Powers struck out 10 over 5 1/3 innings and junior Drew Kron had a 3 for 3 day at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in one as the Falcons won for the fifth time in their first six games.
“The atmosphere was great,” said Powers, who allowed a run, five hits and one walk on 73 pitches. “It felt kinda surreal to be standing where I’ve watched professionals play. I definitely felt some jitters at first, but they quickly faded once I settled in and knew I had my strong defense behind me.”
Dunkin’ Donuts Park hosts a number of high school baseball games each spring (East Hampton and Portland play there on Wednesday). Xavier booked its first game there earlier this year and was the host for the Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision matchup. The Falcons even brought Scott Masse, the announcer for Xavier’s games at Palmer Field, with them to be the PA man Tuesday.
“We were kind of in awe to be in a minor league park,” said Cerreta. “It’s a gorgeous park. The kids’ pictures were on the jumbotron. It was just cool.”
The Falcons scored a run in their first at-bat before Law tied it in its half of the third. In the bottom of the inning, Xavier broke it open with four runs, highlighted by Dillon Luke’s two-out, two-run single.
“Dillon provided the big hit,” Cerreta said. “We were scuffling a little bit in the first inning or two. He’s been great for us with the bat. He just laced a line drive.”
Powers had settled in by that time, but Xavier gave him an additional three runs in the fourth to put the game away. Luke Lappe and Colin Loria had run-scoring hits and JP Hosney had a hit and drove in two runs on the day.
“My two-seam fastball and slider were what I relied on heavily today,” he said. “I just felt like I had complete control of where I wanted them to go. I was also able to mix in some first-pitch curveballs here and there.”
Said Cerreta: “I thought Tiernan got stronger as the game went on. I took him out because we have six games in eight days, and we have relievers that we trust and we had a good enough lead. He got the ovation when he left.”
Thomas Lunt and Hunter Geisler got the final five outs in relief, combining for four strikeouts.
Cerreta said he got to maximize the experience for all of his players except for two who are out with injuries.
“Everybody got in the game, whether as a pinch hitter or pinch runner or getting an inning on the mound,” the coach said.
Xavier’s six-in-eight stretch continues Wednesday with a game against Lyman Hall in Wallingford. The Falcons return to Palmer Field on Friday (7pm) to face SCC Housatonic Division foe Guilford.
Loria gets the start against Lyman Hall.
“This could be a season-defining stretch,” Cerreta said. “It’s all hands on deck, but the kids are all ready to play. We say it’ll take everyone to play all these games coming up. A lot could happen. We could clinch (a Class LL tournament berth) in this stretch, and these are huge games in the division with Guilford and Notre Dame (on Saturday), and West Haven (Monday) and Notre Dame again (Tuesday).”