By Danny Atkinson
MADISON — Xavier arrived in Madison on Friday afternoon knowing that it wanted to immediately establish control of its game against Daniel Hand and put itself in a position to win against an excellent Tigers squad. In the first three innings, the Falcons did this and then some.
Senior captain Drew Kron hit a solo home run in the second at-bat of the game and JP Hosney quickly followed with an RBI triple off Hand starter David Antonetti to put Xavier up 2-0, and the Falcons were off.
After starter Tyler Hartley struck out the side in the bottom of the second, Xavier scored four runs in the top of the third to go up 6-0 and would cruise to a 13-0 victory at Polson Field. The offense finished with 16 hits, while Hartley put together another exceptional start.
The stunning rout extended the Falcons’ win streak to three games and improved their record to 8-2 overall and 7-1 in Southern Connecticut Conference play. They have now won seven of eight. Xavier also leapfrogged Hand for the lead in the SCC’s Hammonasset Division. The Tigers fell to 8-3 overall.
“Our goal for this game was to get a crooked number early to set the tone and give confidence to everyone,” Falcons coach Nick Cerreta said. “I had a good feeling coming in. These kids work out hard and they want to dominate. As a coach, what more can you ask for?”
Kron, who will play for UConn next year, discussed his home run.
“With the wind blowing out, I was trying to set the tone early and get ahold of one,” he said. (Antonetti) threw an excellent changeup low and away and I was trying to take it to the right side, but instead I got out front and was able to get it over the (left field) wall.”
Xavier loaded the bases with one out in the third on bloop singles from Vik Vakati and Colin Loria and a walk by catcher Brandon Gaer. Hosney earned his second RBI with a line drive single and JJ Fox smacked a fastball up the middle, scoring two to make it 5-0. The final run of the inning scored on a wild pitch.
The Falcons would keep on trucking in the fourth with four more runs to go up 10-0. Vakati began the inning with a single (his third hit of the game) and Kron lined a double to left. With one out, Gaer’s single scored both and a pair of singles by Hosney and Fox knocked Antonetti out of the game. With Johnny Ray on in relief, Mason Breton hit a sacrifice fly to score Gaer and third baseman Blake Beattie’s single capped the scoring.
Xavier had an excellent approach at the plate throughout the game. The Falcons jumped on pitches in the middle of the zone, particularly fastballs, while doing a strong job of laying off pitches low or outside. A large majority of their 16 hits were line drives and the Falcons benefited from pitchers’ inability to consistently spot their pitches.
“We were aggressive in the zone and jumped on fastballs to get out early,” Ceretta said. “They were in hitter’s counts all day and (regularly) swung at first pitches. We teach guys to be take this approach.”
While his teammates were putting up big innings, Hartley was excellent, allowing just two hits. The senior, who missed a start last week, was able to keep the Tigers off balance and drew a lot of weak contact. He improved his control over the course of the game and successfully overpowered hitters on high fastballs. Hartley struck out seven batters and did not allow a hit from a single to open the second until the second with one out in the fifth.
“Tyler is great, but he skipped a start and sometimes you come back a little rusty,” his coach said. “He hit a couple batters in the first inning and then settled right in. He’s the leader of the staff and proved it today.”
Xavier scored its final three runs in the fifth. Gaer hit a sacrifice fly and Breton drove in a run with a single. Hosney scored the final run of the game when Breaton’s hit bounced off the first baseman’s glove for an error.
Kron went 3-4 with three extra base hits, including the home run. Hosney, Gaer and Fox each had two RBI. Five players had multiple hits for the Falcons, with Kron, Vakati and Hosney each earning three. All but one starter reached base.
Jeff Pinover and Will Kranzler had Hand’s two hits.
Xavier has now scored 10 or more runs five times and outscored its last three opponents 34-1.
The Tigers, who won the Class L championship last season, entered Friday on a three-game win streak and had barely missed a beat despite losing 12 seniors from the title team.
“Hand has had our number over the years and they are a top team in our division,” Ceretta said. “It’s hard playing down here and today is a confidence builder. This game eats you alive if you don’t have confidence, and right now they do.”
“We want to be the number one team in the division at the end of the day, so this is a great team win,” said Kron. “Still, we’re moving on to practice Monday. We’re playing fantastic and we just want to keep things rolling and finish the season strong.”
In other baseball action Friday:
East Hampton 8, Cromwell 7 (8 innings): After letting a 7-0 lead through 2 innings slip away, the Bellringers walked off with a Shoreline Conference win at home. James Quinn pitched 5 1/3 innings in relief for the victory. Quinn allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits, walked 1 and struck out 9. Javy Diaz, Hunter Peszynski, Quinn and RJ Stanford all had 2 hits for East Hampton (7-5). Quinn and Aiden Palen drove in 2 runs apiece. Colby Dimenna was 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored for the Panthers (7-5). Cromwell’s Tysen Billings relieved starter Brandon Berean in the second and pitched well over 6 innings of work, allowing a run on 5 hits and striking out 7.
Old Saybrook 4, Old Lyme 3: Noah Grace struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings and Jake Butler got the last 4 outs for the save as the Rams (8-3) won at home against the Wildcats (4-8). Grace allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on just 1 hit and he also drove in a run. Noah Hester was 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBIs and Auggie Albert tripled for Old Saybrook. Old Lyme starter Santiago Rodriguez allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits, walked 2 and struck out 6 over 6 innings. Grady Lacourciere had the only 2 hits for Old Lyme, while James Creagan and Owen Snurkowski each drove in a run.
Coginchaug 11, Westbrook 1 (5 innings): Ethan Covello and Preston Mennone had 2 hits and 2 RBIs each and Anthony Morro also drove in 2 runs to power the Blue Devils to a Shoreline Conference win. Jeremy Mangiameli had 2 hits as the Blue Devils improved to 8-4 with their sixth win in their last 7. Jayson Penney pitched 4 innings for the win.
Old Lyme 10, Stonington 0: Emma Bayor struck out 8 in pitching a complete-game 3-hitter and the Wildcats gave her 15 runs’ worth of support in their non-conference win over the Bears. Old Lyme improved to 9-3 overall. Victoria Gage went 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs and a run scored, Anna Eichholz was 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored and an RBI and Jenna Schauder had a triple, single and 2 RBIs.