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Week of April 22: Ericson no-hitter highlights 4-win week as Centaurs qualify for state tournament

The last time Brady Ericson had stepped on the hill for Woodstock Academy, it wasn’t the normal Brady Ericson.

The lefthander struggled to find the strike zone against Ellis Tech and went only three innings.

On Tuesday, it was vintage Brady Ericson.

Everything was working for the junior in a 3-0 win over Waterford at the Bentley Athletic Complex.

Ericson did not allow a hit and set down 14 Lancer hitters on strikes in going the distance in the seven-inning contest.

“It’s still exciting. A no-hitter is a no-hitter- and it’s always going to be exciting. For me, it’s even more so coming off last week’s outing where I wasn’t very good and I wasn’t very happy with it. I’m much more happy with this one and, hopefully, I can get a couple more no-hitters,” Ericson said with a smile.

It was the highlight of a great week for the Centaurs who also posted wins over East Lyme, Fitch and Stonington to raise their record to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.

The win over Fitch Thursday also qualified the Centaurs for the state tournament and the team finished up the week with a road victory over the Bears on Saturday.

What was working on the mound for Ericson  against the Lancers was pretty simple.

“Fastballs,” he said. “and then, once I got ahead in the count, curveballs. They weren’t expecting it and I was just throwing the same pitch in the same spot every time. They either swung through it or just didn’t swing at it.”

Ericson added his arm, as a whole, felt better as he was pitching through some pain the week before. He added he was prepared for it if it did happen again and his legs felt better, too.

He was also in a good mental state.

Ericson was one error away from pitching a perfect game as he did not walk a batter.

“When he is on like that, he will be tough for anyone,” Woodstock Academy coach Connor Elliott said. “That’s a historically good program in our area and our division this year. He just pounded the zone against them, mixed it up well, he was aggressive with his fastball, changed locations and had that bender when he needed it too. His biggest issue is strikes. Last time out, he lost his feel for the fastball and couldn’t get the ball down. He got the ball down (Tuesday).”

If there is one thing that Elliott was a bit concerned about is that when Ericson is that dominant, his team takes a little time out.

“It’s almost a detriment at times to our bats. We get lulled. In baseball, you’re making plays, throwing guys out and all that. When he strikes out the side in half the innings if not more, they come in kind of flat and it carries over to the plate,” Elliott said. “Either (Ericson) needs to throw worse or we need to swing better.”

Elliott, laughing, obviously said he would rather have the latter.

Woodstock Academy didn’t give their ace a lot of support for sure.

Eric Mathewson reached on a one-out single in the first inning, stole second, went to third on a ground out and scored on an error.

Ericson had to protect the slim lead until the fifth inning when Noah Sampson led off with a single, stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on a Brady Lecuyer pinch-hit single. The sophomore advanced on a ground out and scored when Mathewson singled and the relay throw to the plate was over the catcher’s head.

“That was a big hit for (Lecuyer). He’s been working each and every day and I can’t say enough good things about Brady with his attitude, energy and ability to stick with it,” Elliott said.

The team didn't need much in the way of motivation in the first game of the week against East Lyme.

The Vikings had the Centaurs number last season, handing them three of their five losses including one in the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship game at Dodd Stadium.

"All I can remember for the last year was losing in Dodd Stadium in the ECC championship and this day has been circled on my calendar for a long time," Mathewson said.

It wasn't for a championship but it was for early-season bragging rights in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference and those belong to the Centaurs after a 5-2 victory over East Lyme at the Bentley Athletic Complex.

"They had most all of our numbers last season," Elliott said. "They are a quality program. I grew up in that program myself playing for Coach (Jack) Biggs. I have a lot of respect for him and his team, the way they play the game and teach the game. Their kids execute and do what they're asked to do. Any time you play East Lyme, you know you are playing a quality team."

The Vikings did get on the board first against Mathewson.

Liam Cochrane had an RBI double in the first inning but it was one of only five hits that the senior righthander allowed.

He settled into a bulldog-type mentality and finished with six strikeouts, going the distance and throwing just three pitches, 107, under the maximum allowed in a high school game.

"It was pretty hard finding the motivation and the strength to come back every inning but I had my best friends in the dugout with me, all of them just patted me on the back, kept me going, and pushed me out there," Mathewson said.

The Centaurs tied the game in the third inning on a pair of hit batters, a walk and an RBI fielder's choice by Riley O'Brien,

East Lyme took the lead again in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Noah Farrior but it was Mathewson himself who started what proved to be the game-winning rally in the bottom of the fifth.

He doubled to right field and came around to score the tying run on a pair of wild pitches.

Keon Lamarche, who had a double earlier in the contest, walked and O'Brien singled.

Pinch runner Bradley Blair scored what proved to be the game-winner on a swinging bunt by Caleb Simoneau that resulted in an RBI fielder's choice.

Ericson, who has struggled a bit early at the plate, got out of the funk with an opposite field two-run double to account for the Woodstock Academy runs.

"It plagued us last year, at times, not hitting with runners in scoring position or with two outs and it has crept back in a little this year. It's good to see and it was good to see Brady (get the hit) because he has made baseball look easy since I've known him so I don't think the early struggles have been a bad thing. I think a little adversity is good for him because he will work through it and grow from it as a player and a person but, man, was he clutch in that moment," Elliott said.

The bats weren’t particularly explosive against the Falcons on Thursday.

But the Centaurs came up with the hits at key times and staved off a late rally by Fitch to pick up the 6-5 victory.

Mathewson had a two-run single and Maxx Corradi added a run-scoring base hit in a four-run second inning for Woodstock Academy.

The last two Centaur runs came in the sixth inning on a Matt Hernandez two-run single.

A walk, a double, an error and a wild pitch allowed the Falcons to plate two runs in the top of the seventh but Logan Coutu came on top put out the fire and get the last two outs to preserve the win for O’Brien.

Woodstock Academy had to do a bullpen game on Saturday with Logan Coutu, Will Bushey and Jack Sumner pitching the first 5 2/3 innings before Mathewson finished up.

It worked as the pitchers kept Stonington at bay and the bats produced enough for a 7-3 win.

The Centaurs took a first inning lead on a Lamarche RBI single before the Bears tied it up.

Woodstock Academy went ahead to stay when O’Brien doubled in the third inning and two walks loaded the bases.

Sampson had an RBI fielder’s choice and Lecuyer followed with an RBI single. Caleb Simoneau came home on a wild pitch and Corradi had a sacrifice fly to put the Centaurs up, 5-1.

Stonington scored two in the bottom of the inning but Woodstock Academy put it away in the top of the seventh on a two-run double by Corradi.