By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTH WINDSOR – The biggest trouble that the Bristol Knights of the Manchester Twilight League faced wasn’t on the field this past season.
The 2011 Manchester Twilight League champs always play a superior brand of baseball but it was getting the entire product out on the field on a consistent basis that ended up costing the squad throughout the 2012 campaign.
All of that, plus two losses to open the MTL playoffs, led the Knights to an overall 8-16 record that looked truly worse than it really was.
After streaking out to a 4-1 record to open the campaign, the Knights season just hit a brick wall as the club had trouble putting together all of its pieces – on the field – and the losses began to mount up.
“We played much better last year,” said player/coach Scott Dickens. “We did not play at the same level this year.”
After that four game winning streak, Bristol lost six straight and simply never recovered.
By the time the Knights ended its season with an 6-5 extra-inning affair against Elmer’s, Bristol was 8-14 and finished the year by going 4-13 and dropping a number of close affairs by just a couple of runs.
Those losses cost the Knights critical playoff positioning.
And there was some really good talent on this team.
Veteran pitcher Ricky Barrett threw a no-hitter in the Knights 8-0 blanking of the Tri-County Twins back on May 17. One night later, Lucas Nickerson picked up a big 6-4 win on the mound against the Loco Perro Expos.
Almost a week later, Rex Cone threw a one-hitter against the Plaza Azteca Indians in a 6-3 triumph and after one additional victory, Bristol was flying high at 4-1.
Bristol dropped six straight games before winning against the East Hartford Angels (4-0) as Lucus picked up another win.
On July 10, Cone pitches and wins, defeating the Azteca Indians 4-3 as the Knights moved to 6-7 on the campaign.
From there, the Knights finished the year at 2-7 and dropped several winnable games including an 8-7 loss to Elmer’s, a 7-6 defeat to the Twins, a 4-3 gaffe against the Angels and another tough 7-5 defeat in Marlborough against the Expos.
In the playoffs, Bristol made a big comeback against Elmer’s but still dropped a hard fought 7-6 decision on Monday, Aug. 6 and one night later, a 5-0 defeat to the Expos finished the season for the Knights.
“I hope that we all have better year’s next year,” said Justin Kilker.
“I hope so, too,” echoed Dickens.
Cone led the team in hitting with an average of .420 while smashing 21 hits and collecting seven doubles.
Chris Taylor was the team leader in runs scored (10) and triples (one) while Drew Gallagher and Cone each collected 11 RBI on the season.
Barrett led the team in home runs with two as he smashed two round trippers against the Expos on July 30 while Kilker was the Knights’ stolen base leader with six.
In limited appearances, Chris Klepps batted .364 with four hits and scored three runs while Eddie Dickman hit .357 and collected 10 hits.
Crafty Jay Gilbert batted .327, tallied 16 hits, and scored six runs while Dickens hit .321 and collected 17 hits.
From the mound, the team carried an ERA of 4.49 as Blais was the team leader with a 3.90 ERA and went 1-2 on the year.
Barrett was 1-3 with his no-hitter while Nickerson led the squad with 28 strikeouts and three wins.
Cone pitched in eight games, going 2-6, and racking up 27 Ks while Matt Doyle went 0-1 for the Knights and carried a 4.71 ERA.
“We’ve had better teams than we had this year but I still thought we had a good team (this year),” said Dickens.