WATERBURY – Keegan Daigle was too good and Kyle Banche was just good enough. All of which sets up a Game 3 battle at 2 p.m. Sunday at Municipal Stadium to decide the Tri-State League championship.
Daigle was brilliant on the mound through eight innings while Banche survived a rocky ninth inning with a game-ending strikeout to thwart a Tri-Town comeback as Bethlehem survived to force a deciding game with a 5-4 victory at Municipal Stadium.
“(Tri-Town) has been in deciding games, I can’t remember us playing a game three,” said Bethlehem center fielder Jon Wilson. “But there is not a player on this team that hasn’t played in big games. We will be ready to go. Definitely the belief grows after today’s game but tomorrow the first two games don’t matter it’s 0-0.”
“We’re going to have to hit the ball. We’ve got to play the game of offense,” Tri-Town coach Dan McCarty said. “We did everything today but hit. At the end of the game we made (Daigle) look like Nolan Ryan. It’s not like we haven’t been here before. In 2013 won in three, in 2018 we won in three and in 2021 we won in three.
The Plowboys rallied from a 5-1 defeat Friday night behind the 6-foot-5 Daigle. After a nice stint at UConn-Avery Point, Daigle is headed to Southern Connecticut and he was nothing short of overpowering on this day.
Daigle gave up just one hit through six innings and left with a 5- 1 lead after eight innings having been touched for just five hits, two of the infield variety while striking out 12.
“He relied on the fastball, he had good location and got ahead of hitters. There were no free bases. He throws well,” Tri-Town shortstop Mike Fabiaschi said.
“It was definitely one of my better performances,” Daigle said. “I had a good fastball and slider. It’s tough to beat them. The have good hitters. This was a lot of fun. “
Bethlehem gave Daigle support from the beginning a taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Matt Mancini’s RBI single and adding two more in the fourth inning when Colby Linnell plate a run on a ground out and Joe Rupe roped an RBI double.
The Bethlehem bats looked much more energetic after being stymied by Miles Scribner in the first game loss.
“We were a lot more aggressive and attacked early in the count today,” Bethlehem’s Ricky Descoteaux said. “The hits kept flowing.”
Descoteaux and Greg Campbell each had three hits to pace Bethlehem’s 12-hit attack.
The Plowboys made it 5-0 in the seventh on Descoteaux’s two run single. Tri-Town managed to get one back in the eighth with a trio of singles, Tom Troy’s base hit knocking in the run.
The lead looked comfortable going into the ninth inning. That was just a mirage. Banche had an eventful 20 minutes that ended with the tying run on second base. Bethlehem third baseman Isaiah Johnson made a highlight reel diving stop and threw Willy Yahn out at first and things got dicey.
Austin Patenaude singled and Fabiaschi doubled down the left field line. Banche then got Coleby Bunnell to ground out to third base for the second out. However Evan Scribner single to left center to drive in two runs to make it 5-3. Johnson then threw Jon McNelis’ ground ball into the dirt at third as another run scored to cut the margin to 5-4.
Banche regrouped to catch Joey Grantmeyer on a called third strike to end the wild inning and the game.
Tri-Town will be looking to three-peat Sunday and will go with Connor Gannon on the mound. Bethlehem will be looking for its first title since 2010 and has not announced a starter.