Joel Barlow High School senior Matt Scott was the center of attention as the Falcons kicked off their 2022 baseball season with a 4-2 win over the No. 1-ranked Westhill Vikings on April 5 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
At least 11 scouts, including representatives from major league clubs like the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Guardians, came out to see the 6-foot-6-inch Stanford commit put on a pitching clinic. Scott struck out 12 Vikings over six complete innings, allowing just one earned run against a Westhill team that is coming off a 1-0 loss in the CIAC Class LL state championship game.
“You treat it like every other game,” said Scott. “They’re number one, they have everything to lose; we have nothing to lose, so we have to play like we have nothing to lose.”
Although the Falcons’ ace has been known to throw a four-seam, 95-mph fastball, it was his broader repertoire of pitches, including an 83-mph slider, that helped Scott take down a powerful Westhill lineup.
“I was feeling pretty good,” said Scott. “Fastball, slider, changeup, everything was working today.”
In humble fashion, Scott credits his teammate Ian Nilsen’s clutch two-RBI single in the fifth inning with providing the much-needed run support to get the job done down the stretch. The sophomore Nilsen also picked up his first save of the season by closing out the game on the mound.
Barlow jumped out to 1-0 lead in bottom of the first inning when Scott came around to score on a two-out RBI single from senior Ben Castonguay. That score held until the fifth inning when the speedy freshman T.J. Baer got things started with a one-out triple to right. Senior and Trinity College commit Jason Gaudio worked a walk with two down in the inning, and Nilsen’s two-run single made Westhill pay for intentionally walking Scott ahead of him. The Falcons tacked on an insurance run when Castonguay collected his second RBI by knocking in Scott with a base hit to right.
Although Barlow collected an important win in their home opener, one thing Scott said he will not do this season is “settle,” and he can also be his own toughest critic. “I’m hard on myself at times–I have to be honest with what goes on,” said Scott. “There are some pitches … that I shouldn’t have made, and I just have to learn from that for next time.”
Barlow Athletic Director Michael Santangeli mentioned that Scott has distinctive traits that the scouts may not have picked up with their radar guns.
“It’s not every day that you have a kid with talent who is not only excellent athletically, but also a great teammate, a person who will stay after and work with kids in the JV program and the freshman program,” said Santangeli. “He does everything right off the field.”
Head Coach Matt Griffiths agrees. “He is a once in a lifetime player and that is the bottom line,” said Griffiths. “Everybody knows what he is capable of doing on the field, but what I think a lot of people don’t know is the quality of kid that he is.”
Despite the many important decisions that Scott has to make about his future in the coming months, he said his focus remains on the season at hand, including getting Barlow back to the state tournament again this year.
The Falcons open up SWC conference play against New Fairfield at home on Monday, April 11 at 4:15 p.m.
Photos by Robert Finizio