The #4 Danbury Westerners earned a 1-0 series lead over the #2 Valley Blue Sox in a 5-2 victory at MacKenzie Stadium.
Sebastian Murillo put Danbury ahead with a bases-clearing triple to right field in the top of the seventh. Three Westerners relief pitchers then totaled 12 strikeouts against Valley hitters, whose final six outs came via the strikeout.
Banks Griffith worked a one-out walk in the top of the first before Andrew Jenkins lined a curveball back up the middle to put runners on the corners for Danbury. Nick Lorusso scorched a line drive of his own to the gap in left-center to bring home both Griffith and Jenkins to give Danbury an early 2-0 lead.
Valley got on the board with a Steven Luttazi RBI single into left field that scored Brian Hart. Brendan Hueth matched Luttazi with an RBI single of his own, this time to center field to tie the game at two in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Westerners loaded and emptied the bases in the top of the seventh inning. Jack Payton had a leadoff single to center field before Jake Roper and Matt Zaffino each singled on bunts to the first base line and third base line, respectively. Sebastian Murillo brought all three Westerners across home plate on a triple to right center field ahead of a diving Brendan Hueth. Murillo was stranded on third base to end the inning.
Renn Lints, Ethan Clough, and Coleman Picard were the stars of the show in Game 1 for Danbury as they combined for 12 strikeouts across four and two-third innings of work.
Lints was first called on for Angelo Tonas and lasted for five outs against the Blue Sox in his final game as a Westerner this season.
After the game, Lints gave his endorsement to the Westerners as the semifinals series continues.
“I’m confident in this group of guys,” Lints said, “Like we’ve said all year, this is the grittiest team in the NECBL.”
Ethan Clough pitched for the second straight game after a 13 pitch scoreless outing against the Newport Gulls last night. Clough pitched in the seventh and eighth innings and got all six of his outs against Valley by swinging strikeouts.
Clough talked about his historical performance after the game.
“I established my fastball early,” Clough said, “Then I would play with my off speed pitches from there and find some good tunnels.”
Coleman Picard came in for the ninth. He was also in his second straight game. Picard struck out all three batters that he faced to earn the save and give Danbury a 1-0 lead on the road.
The Westerners will host Game 2 of the South Division Semifinals Thursday at Rogers Park at 6:30 PM. The game will be live-streamed on the NECBL Network.