Tomas Silverio got the final two outs for New Milford, which improved to 4-1 on the season with a 9-6 win over Dwight-Englewood on Friday afternoon.
NEW MILFORD – Unbeaten in league play through the first two weeks of the season, New Milford is being chased by every other team in the NJIC-Liberty Division. There are four teams just one game behind the Knights in the standings and every play of every game against those teams carries more weight. It looked like the Knights had put one of those teams, Dwight-Englewood, away when they took a six-run lead heading into the seventh inning on Friday afternoon, but the final out proved to be an elusive one.
Dwight-Englewood rallied to bring the go-ahead run to the plate before New Milford reliever Tomas Silverio struck out a batter with the bases loaded to end the game as New Milford stayed atop the NJIC-Liberty with a 9-6 win at Labarbera Field in New Milford.
Jake Lagana led off the game with a single, stole second, and came around on a sac fly from Lachlan Charles to give the Bulldogs the early lead. New Milford answered back in the bottom half of the opening frame with the runs scored by Rhys Farley and Mike Aviles to grab a 2-1 lead.
It looked like that was all the run support Knights’ starter Brian Mackey would need. The tall right-hander put up three straight scoreless innings and got another run to work with on a sac fly by Tyler Picinic in the fourth inning.
“I knew this one a big game and I had to have my stuff working,” said Mackey. “I trust my defense and we’re going to hit so I just have to hit my spots.”
Will Del Rio went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored for Dwight-Englewood.
Dwight-Englewood showed some grit in the top of the fifth inning. After a leadoff single by Ricky Vega and a walk, Josh Linder moved the runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs Mackey threw a good two-strike pitch on the outside corner to the left-handed hitting Will Del Rio but the hitter got the best of the battle. Del Rio poked it into left field to score both runs and tie the game at 3.
The Knights ran themselves out of opportunities in each of the first four innings and, with the game tied, New Milford simplified its approach at the plate and on the basepaths. A little more patience was in order and the Knights loeaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fifth.
Dwight-Englewood head coach Frankie Salvano went to his bullpen to relieve starter Daniel Neuwirth but there was no slowing down the Knights. John DeSena broke the tie by ripping a two-run double down the left field line to make it 5-3. That started a string of five consecutive hits with Anthony Puntanesca and Colin Hollis each hitting run-scoring singles wrapped around a two-run base knock from Ray Rama to put New Milford ahead 9-3.
“They had the shift on me so I was looking for an outside fastball, I got one and I just went with it,” said DeSena. “We knew we had to put some runs up and we had some really good at-bats that inning.”
John DeSena riped a two-run double that put New Milford ahead for good.
Mackey got into trouble in the sixth inning but wiggled his way out of it. The Bulldogs had two runners in scoring position with nobody out but Mackey induced a groundout then struckout the next two batters to get out unscathed heading into the seventh inning.
“We were right in the game heading into the bottom of the fifth and before we knew what hit us they put up six runs quickly,” said Salvano.
Dwight-Englewood made one last push in the top of the seventh. With the 110-pitch limit in effect, Mackey had to be lifted with one out in the seventh and Silverio came on to try and close the game out. The Bulldogs jumped on him early with Del Rio and Charles delivering back-to-back RBI singles before another one by Cameron Dupree with two outs cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 9-6 with the tying run at first and the go-ahead run in Vega coming to the plate.
The pressure was on but junior right-hander was up to the task and got a strike out to end the game.
“We fought right until the end we just ran out of outs,” added Salvano. “There are a lot of young kids who are playing well and we’re getting more confidence with each game. This one is a tough loss but they are the top team in our league and we were right there, so that’s a good sign and we’ll bounce back.”
Rama and Aviles each notched three hits to pace the offense for New Milford (4-1). Mackey went 6 1/3 allowing seven hits with two walks and six Ks to pick up the win. Del Rio led the way for Dwight-Englewood (2-3) by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.
Still holding a slim one-game lead over three teams in the NJIC-Liberty the Knights have a chance to widen that gap with games against two of those teams (Secaucus and Harrison) in the next week.
“There is a lot of good competition in the league, we just have to complete every day and take it game by game,” added DeSena. “We have big plans ahead and high expectations. We just have to stay positive, play from the neck up and we’ll be fine.”