By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Over the past few years, the Mets haven’t had the best of luck when it came to the annual Bristol softball city series tournament.
And on the opposite side of the coin, the Tigers have been crowned champions and have been the cream of the crop over that same time period.
But 2012 was a different story. The Mets, now a veteran and dangerous club, proved that very fact and came away with the championship, a dominating 12-2 victory, over the Tigers from Forestville Little League on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
The championship win was a long time coming for the Mets as the club no-hit a very game Tigers squad.
In the end of this one, the Mets were simply too tough to topple and racked up a 10-run, mercy-ruled victory in five innings of play.
“We had an unbelievable season,” said Mets coach Shelley D’Amato. “We went undefeated and I didn’t expect any less from them tonight.”
But the Tigers challenged the Mets from the get-go and even though the game ended in a blowout, there wasn’t any quit from the visiting team in the contest.
And the Tigers even took the initial edge in the game.
“I told the girls I was very proud of them,” said Tigers coach Steve Rivoira. “I don’t think the (Mets) were expecting for us to have such a long game. But we played really well defensively. There were two innings they didn’t score and we made all the right plays in the field.”
Jenna Ptak and Ali Rivoira started the game off with back-to-back walks and the Tigers had something going early.
A wild pitch put the duo on second and third and with no outs, Ptak and Rivoira looked poised to add a couple of runs to the scoreboard.
Ptak eventually scored off a wild pitch by Mets starting pitcher Ashlee White that made it a quick 1-0 affair in the Tigers’ favor.
Later, a pick-off play to third base – in an attempt to get Rivoira – went haywire as the ball was thrown away and the runner crossed the plate, making the game a 2-0 tilt in the Tigers favor.
But White quickly settled down and after walking Samantha Bender, she and relief pitcher Nicole D’Amato only walked four additional batters – none of which scored – while not allowing a single hit in the contest.
The Mets’ defense buckled down from that point in the game and did not make any additional errors in the field.
“Our defense is tight and it’s always been that way,” said Shelley D’Amato. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together and they had the bats to go with it. That’s a bonus, so we could afford to give up a couple runs.”
With the 2-0 lead in hand, Tigers pitcher Sam Bender battled and made a good accounting of herself.
However, the Mets’ bats were simply too explosive to contain and the Tigers quickly lost its lead in the game.
White led off the first with a double and scored off a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Mackenzie Jankowski’s first inside-the-park homerun quickly tied the game at 2-2 and after D’Amato reached base via error and Sarah Strilkauskas staked an infield hit, runners were on second and third with no outs.
From there, Bridget Johndrow smashed an RBI double and off a two-base, two-RBI tally by Morgan Boucher, the Mets made it a 6-2 contest after one completed frame.
After a scoreless second inning by the Tigers, it was the Mets turn to answer back.
Credit belongs to Bender (three strikeouts, no walks) as she retired the Mets in order in the stanza and kept the Tigers in the thick of things, down only four runs.
“After the first six batters scored, she settled down really nicely and kept them off (balanced) by moving her pitches around,” said Rivoira of Bender. “She kept the Mets second guessing on a lot of pitches. I think she did a really nice job against a potent line up.”
D’Amato came in to pitch for the Mets in the third frame and, like White, threw more than effectively as the game remained a 6-2 contest.
“Ashlee did a great job on the mound,” said D’Amato of White. “It’s hard to go up there with the all the cameras looking at you and everything else. Along with Nicole, they did a great job.”
In the bottom of the third, the Mets sprang back to life offensively.
Jankowski started the stanza off with her second in-the-park homer – another deep shot to the outfield – to make it a 7-2 game.
“It was unbelievable and it couldn’t happen to a better kid,” said D’Amato of Jankowski’s two home run blasts. “She’s just an amazing kid.”
D’Amato singled to right and Strilkauskas reached base via a fielder’s choice to keep the momentum going.
Johndrow grounded out to shortstop to advance the runners and off a wild pitch, D’Amato was plated as the gaffe made it an 8-2 score.
Strilkauskas scored off an RBI groundout by Morgan Boucher and later in the frame, Zarick scored a run off an error and the Mets went in front 10-2 after three innings of work.
The Tigers went down in order in the fourth while the Mets were also baffled by Bender as the team was still hanging in there but trailed by eight runs.
With one out in the top of the fifth inning, the Tigers drew two consecutive base-on-balls as a rally was possibly looming.
But D’Amato pitched her way of the jam and the Mets sealed the deal in its portion of the fifth to finally end the fray.
“Nicole’s not really a pitcher but she knew what to do,” said Shelley D’Amato of daughter Nicole. “I told her to just get it over the plate and let the defense do the work. And that’s exactly what they did.”
White started the inning off with an infield hit while Jankowski singled to centerfield.
Both advanced off a wild pitch and with runners on second and third, D’Amato made it academic.
D’Amato drilled a triple to left as both base runners scored and the game-winning hit made it a 12-2 affair, ending the contest with the Mets winning the city series championship.
While the Tigers absorbed a tough 10-run defeat to the Mets, Rivoira was proud of the way his team finished the season.
“This might have been our best overall game even though the Mets scored a lot of runs off of us,” said Rivoira. “Overall, that was probably our best game. (But) it also shows how talented the Mets are.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE