After taking a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning, things weren't looking too good for the Brookfield High School Baseball team. Ridgefield had responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning and then scored three more in the third, chasing Bobcats starter Eric Meyer for a 6-1 lead.
Relief pitcher Ryan Berry came in and settled things down for the Bobcats, then the bats finally came to life.
Ridgefield starting pitcher Dan Zarnik was cruising along into the fifth when leadoff hitter Austin Yusko got things going with a double. Center fielder Janko Cornelius followed him with another double and the hit parade was on in an eventual 14-8 victory.
The Bobcats produced six consecutive hits to start the fifth and came up with eight overall as they batted around in the order. By the time the inning was over, they had put up six runs to take a 7-6 lead, chasing Tigers starter Zarnik and knocking out reliever Jon Boucher.
"I think we got complacent with the lead," Ridgefield manager Tony Wilmot said. "We had a chance to turn six into seven and seven into eight but we left the door open for them to get going."
Ridgefield did rally to tie the score in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Brookfield blew the game open with five more runs in the top of the sixth, batting around for the second consecutive inning. This time it was walks that doomed the Tigers and a rarely seen double steal play.
With a runner on third and two outs, third baseman Evan Mosingo drew a walk. He then got into a run-down between first and second long enough to allow Cornelius to score from third. Two more walks followed to load the bases and pinch-hitter Bryson Herr delivered a two-run double to break things open.
"Coming into the season, we knew defense was our Achilles heel," Wilmot said. "But I was surprised more by our sloppy play and haphazard approach. Our baseball IQ wasn't very high today."
"We've been working on ways to produce runs," Brookfield manager Dan McKee said of the rarely seen double steal after a walk. "Sometimes the little things can lead to big things."
Brookfield belted out 14 hits to go with their 14 runs while Ridgefield had 11 to produce their eight runs. Most of the Tigers' damage came early off Bobcats starter Meyer. Reliever Berry provided the team a big lift.
"He is starting fresh," McKee said of Berry, who is coming back from a broken arm. "He's coming back strong and has the stuff to be a one or a two. When we are healthy and right, we have a great staff."
The season opener was played at the Arena At Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, the site of this year's state championships. McKee was excited to start the season there to give his team a chance to play in a bigtime setting. He's hoping they will be able to make it back here and have some familiarity with the field conditions.
"The guys have really bought into the system," McKee said. Getting an opening day win against a Ridgefield squad that embarrassed Brookfield 22-0 two seasons ago was "very sweet," he said.