Pictured: H-K coach Mark Brookes comes upon enthusiastic catcher Nick Glynn in the Cougars’ handshake line after a 7-1 win over Portland. The victory leaves Brookes’ one shy of 700 for his career.
By Paul Augeri
PORTLAND – Alden Halfinger’s bases-loaded double broke open a one-run game in the fourth inning, Matt Miranda drove in two runs and Alec Erskine struck out nine in six innings as Haddam-Killingworth knocked off Portland 7-1 on Friday.
Miranda had a two-hit day and center fielder Luke DiMauro contributed two hits and threw out a Portland runner at second base as the Cougars improved to 8-2 to keep pace with Coginchaug atop the Shoreline Conference baseball standings.
The victory was the 699th of Mark Brookes’ coaching career at H-K.
“I told him, it’s a remarkable feat,” said Portland coach Rick Borg, who opposed Brooks for the first time since the Highlanders’ extra-innings win over the Cougars in the 2019 Shoreline championship game. “It’s hard to fathom doing this that long. And he has no intention of stopping.”
Brookes organized the H-K program when the school opened its doors in 1976. His first (1977) varsity team, which did not have a senior class, finished 8-10. He hasn’t had a sub-.500 record in 44 seasons since.
No. 700 doesn’t much matter to him. It’s not as if he’s bearing down on the state high school record — North Haven’s Bob DeMayo surpassed 900 wins in 2018. Brookes doesn’t want his players preoccupied by a number.
“Just play for the team. Don’t think about anything else. Let’s just win a game,” is his message to his players. “It’s nothing special. You just do what you’re here to do, and that’s play good baseball.”
No. 700 could come as early as Monday when the Cougars visit Old Saybrook (4pm). H-K’s next home game is Wednesday against Cromwell, also at 4pm.
“He doesn’t bring it up because he wants us to focus on one game at a time, as we should be,” Erskine said. “We’re all counting in our head, but we don’t bring it up.”
Erskine, who will play in college at Southern Connecticut, scattered three hits and walked two in a 65-pitch outing. He mixed up a good fastball with a curve that Portland’s hitters had trouble anticipating.
“When he’s hitting his curveball in spots, he’s very tough,” said Brookes. “He had them both. That usually keeps you close. I was impressed with him. And he only threw 65, so he’s throwing a lot of strikes.”
H-K gave Erskine a 1-0 lead in the third when Luke DiMauro, who singled, stole second and moved up on a flyout, scored when Miranda’s screamer to center field was dropped.
The Cougars touched Portland starter Spencer Rosado for four runs — all unearned — in the fourth. Halfinger, a reliable run-producer this season, doubled to deep left with two outs, scoring Ryan Kallenbach, Alex Sheehan and Lucas Kamoen. Miranda followed with a single to right to plate Halfinger and pad H-K’s lead to 5-0.
For Portland (1-8), it was the bad inning that Borg has come to dread. Rosado, a sophomore, pitched well against one of the strongest lineups in the conference, only to see his defense make mistakes on playable balls.
“We’ve been playing better lately and we played OK today,” the coach said. “Spencer pitched one-run baseball for four innings. That’s pretty good against H-K.”
Borg noted that if Friday’s game was on the schedule in the first week of the season, his team might not have lasted the regulation seven innings.
“We’re in seven-inning games now and that’s an improvement,” he said. “If we eliminate the bad innings, we could be (above .500).”
Portland got on the board in the sixth. Designated hitter JT Jagoda, in just his second appearance of the season because of an elbow injury, walked with one out and came around on Teddy Williams’ two-out double to right.
The Cougars tacked on two runs in the seventh off Portland relievers Austin Vess and Jayden Kilham. DiMauro hit a run-scoring double off Vess and Miranda’s double off Kilham drove in Halfinger.
DiMauro has been one of the Cougars’ hottest hitters this spring.
“I’m definitely more confident than my sophomore year,” the senior said. “I’ve worked a lot on my swing and approach in the offseason. The six scrimmages we had, I felt great in those and I’m happy I’ve carried it into the season so far.”
While the team takes a deliberately quiet approach to Brookes’ eventual 700th win, DiMauro said the Cougars are glad it’s going to happen on their watch.
“We are all really excited for him. He’s a great coach and a great guy,” DiMauro said. “It’s a great achievement for him.”
HK 000 140 2–7 8 0
P 000 001 1—1 4 3
Batteries: HK–Alec Erskine, Alden Halfinger (7) and Nick Glynn; P–Spencer Rosado, Austin Vess (5), Jayden Kilham (7) and Mike Quesnel: WP: Erskine; LP-Rosado. 2B: HK-Halfinger, Luke DiMauro, Matt Miranda; P-Teddy Williams, Devin Murphy. LOB: HK-5; P-5.