Pictured: Matt Shea, left, reacts after scoring the go-ahead run for H-K in the seventh inning. At right is teammate Max Selmer.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

DEEP RIVER — Tanyon Champagne was in shutdown mode Monday against unbeaten Haddam-Killingworth.

Valley Regional/Westbrook’s junior right-hander rendered the Cougars hitless through five innings. Boosted by a one-run lead early on, he retired 16 of H-K’s first 18 batters, the two fortunate to get on via a second-inning walk and a fourth-inning error.

“Tanyon had good enough stuff for us to win,” Warriors coach Pat Sirois said.

The Cougars waited out him out though, and broke through in big spots with the outcome on the line.

Todd Butler tied the score with an RBI single in the sixth and a Warriors’ error produced the go-ahead run to give H-K a 2-1 Shoreline Conference victory, their fourth straight to start the season.

Valley/Westbrook right-hander Tanyon Champagne held H-K hitless through five innings before his lead slipped away in the sixth.

“What it comes to is they execute with guys in scoring position and they execute when we have guys in scoring position,” said Sirois, who took over as Warriors coach this season after spending 2023 as head coach at East Hampton. “That’s the difference in the game. They beat us in both aspects.”

Butler, a junior left-hander, threw six strong innings for the win and senior Blake Kamoen got the final three outs for the save.

The Cougars had only three hits, but made each count.

After the Cougars nicked Champagne for the tying run in the sixth, Matt Shea led off the seventh with a sharp single over the head of third baseman Kyle Leandri. Shea moved into scoring position on a passed ball and a balk by Champagne and came across with the deciding run on Ryan Erskine’s single to left.

“This being a close game, we needed to have base runners,” said Mark Brookes, now in his 48th year as H-K’s coach — but first as a defending state champion.

“We got the leadoff hit (in the seventh) and then a quality at-bat (from Erskine),” he said. “We had a bunch of things called and they executed, which we didn’t do in the early innings. We were hitting fly balls and not executing extraordinarily well.”

The Warriors (2-2) scored their lone run in the second inning. Ben Stosse walked with one out, stole second and scored on Champagne’s double to right field.

Butler scattered five hits, walked three and struck out six in his first start of the season.

“I came back out, ignored all the noise and just did what I did,” he said, referring to the Warriors taking a 1-0 lead. “Could use a few less walks and maybe a few more strikeouts, but I still think it was a good day.”

As Champagne dealt and his defense played well behind him, the Warriors had opportunities in the third and fifth innings to give him a cushion but failed to come through.

In the third, after Butler got two quick outs, both Leandri and Caleb Winkley singled to right field and Braden Karcich walked to load the bases. But Butler blew a fastball by Stosse to end the threat.

In the fifth, Jack McPherson led off with a walk, stole second and moved to third on a one-out single by Winkley. Butler buckled down again. After falling behind 3-1 to Karcich, he struck him out and induced Stosse on a pop fly to the mound.

The win was the Cougars’ second by one run. They beat Cromwell 3-2 and also own lopsided wins over Old Saybrook and Morgan. H-K, North Branford (3-0) and Old Lyme (3-0 versus Shoreline foes) have made strong starts out of the gate.

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