In a game that lasted three hours and 36 minutes, 337 pitches, and saw 23 runners left on base, a walk-off wild pitch capped off a chaotic evening as the Danbury Westerners beat the Bristol Blues 5-4 in 10 innings. The wild pitch, which brought pinch-runner Jakobi Davis home from third base, marks the second time in four days and four games that the Westerners won via walk-off at the Roadhouse at Rogers Park to begin the 2023 season.
“We just play like our hats are on fire every single night,” manager Conor Farrell said following the walk-off. “It’s Westerner baseball at this point.”
Wearing their red Hat City jerseys for the first time this summer, Danbury improved to 2-2 after another one-run victory at home. Bristol, meanwhile, fell to 1-3 and has dropped two straight one-run decisions.
The chaos began when Danbury got on the board in the third inning behind a series of misplays by the Bristol defense. Hayden Miller swung at strike three to begin the frame but reached first base safely after the ball got away from the catcher. The Charleston sophomore almost got stranded on the basepaths despite stealing second and reaching third on a wild pitch, but Brant Baughcum’s RBI single brought him home and broke the ice. On that same play, the Georgia Tech sophomore advanced to second on a throwing error from Billy Sullivan and reached third after the ball got past Gavin Durocher’s glove in right field. The Westerners tacked on another run the following inning, which Feinberg started off with a full-count walk before reaching second on a wild pitch. Mike Becchetti capitalized on the scoring opportunity with an RBI double that doubled the Danbury lead.
Westerner starter TJ Wainwright silenced the Blues through the first four innings, but after throwing ball three to Griffin Arnone to start the fifth, the CCSU righty had to leave the game with an apparent elbow injury. Although the fans in attendance feared the worst, Farrell noted that Wainwright felt fine after exiting the game. That brought Braden Quinn, who also reported to the team earlier that day, to the mound, and despite having two separate runners in scoring position, the UConn southpaw kept Bristol off the board. Danbury’s defense did Quinn no favors in the sixth, however.
It started when DeAndre Llopiz reached on a ball that Luke Boynton dropped, and the Palm Beach Atlantic College senior miraculously stayed on the basepaths following two Baughcum errors, scoring on the latter. With one run in, the Blues tied the game on a wild pitch before snatching the lead on a sacrifice groundout. Allowing three unearned runs and losing the lead would demoralize any team, yet the Westerners found a way to regain the advantage in the bottom half. With Becchetti on second and Billy Gerlott on first, Miller recorded his first hit of 2023 (between Charleston and Danbury) when he hammered a 3-1 pitch deep to left centerfield for a go-ahead two-run double.
Timothy Cianciolo relieved Quinn in the seventh, and after walking the first two batters he faced, the UMass Boston righty bounced back with three straight swinging strikeouts to keep his team out in front. Cianciolo did not have the same magic in his second inning, however, as Vincent Bianchina scored the tying run on Gavin Noriega’s RBI double.
Anthony Steele ran into some early trouble to begin his first relief appearance as a Westerner, throwing seven straight balls and walking the first two batters he faced. An infield single that included a contested play at third loaded the bases, but the Penn State lefty worked around the threat. After striking out the next two hitters, Steele nearly got caught sleeping with Bianchina at the plate on an 0-2 count, but Llopiz’s baserunning luck expired as Aidan Jolley applied the tag at home plate for a significant third out.
The intensity turned up another level in the bottom of the ninth, as Jason Claiborn reached safely on a Bianchina throwing error and advanced to second base. Javon Hernandez almost became the hero for the second time this season, but he grounded out to third base. Just when it appeared as though the Westerners would walk off in regulation again, Llopiz snagged Boynton’s line drive and threw over to second to get Claiborn for the inning-ending double play as a tense contest went into extras.
Placed on second as the extra-inning runner, Arnone advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Bianchina but did not touch home plate after Noriega struck out looking and Durocher flew out. Davis took over as the pinch-runner on second base, advancing to third himself when pinch-hitter Drew Wyers grounded into a sacrifice bunt. Jaden Wywoda intentionally walked Becchetti but got taken out of the game after hitting Daniel Labrador with a pitch that loaded the bases. Gerlott stepped in and only saw one ball as it got away from catcher Jimmy Sullivan, allowing Davis to score the winning run and close the book on a tumultuous tilt between two West Division foes.
“This was probably one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of,” Farrell commented.
Steele picked up the win after working around a rough start to his first Hat City pitching appearance. Hughes took the loss as his lone pitch brought in the winning run. In his return to Rogers Park after playing for the 2021 NECBL champion Westerners, Solimine allowed one run in three innings with five strikeouts.
Danbury wraps up their five-game homestand against the undefeated Newport Gulls on Tuesday, June 13. Newport went 30-14 last summer, winning the competitive Coastal Division by just one game over the eventual NECBL champion Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. Jordan Falco takes the hill as the Westerners look to down the Gulls for the first time since 2021. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
The rest of the Danbury Westerners’ 2023 schedule can be found on their website.