The bases were loaded, the stands were loud — heck, there was even a train parked beyond the scoreboard in center field which appeared to be stealing a peek as Newtown and Pomperaug put the finishing touches on “The Game to Remember” at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport Thursday night.
As usual, the Panthers and Nighthawks got together and produced a classic. But beyond the Nighthawks’ thrilling 5-4 victory, both teams contributed to a worthy cause: the ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Some 600 fans attended the special regular-season game, free of charge, instead making donations to benefit the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department. First responders threw first pitches and both teams warmed up in Sandy Hook green-and-white.
“It was a great night,” said Pomperaug coach Mike Eisenbach, a Sandy Hook Elementary alum who proposed the game to Newtown coach Matt Memoli in the offseason. “We had great volunteers and coordinators who put this all into motion and made it happen.”
Added Memoli, “Between Mike and I, being the bitter rivals on the field that we are — we’ve had some awesome games together — coming together to coordinate this is one of the highlights of my young coaching career. I’ve only been coaching four years, but this is probably the highlight, along with winning the conference last year. But this outweighs that because it touches so many people.”
After meeting in last year’s SWC title game, the Nighthawks (5-6, 3-3 SWC) and Panthers (6-6, 3-3) are in unfamiliar territory: the middle of the pack. But as Thursday’s night’s dramatic contest attests, neither team should be taken lightly when the conference tourney rolls around. Nighthawks righthander Pat Mullins, who earned the save Thursday, tossed a no-hitter earlier this season. He, along with Thursday’s winner, Brandon Marks, forms a solid 1-2. And the Panthers, who graduated much of the talent from last year’s near three-peat winner of the SWC crown, have rebounded from a rocky start to win three of their last five.