Fermi’s timing is off as it’s blitzed by BC

Bristol Central’s Matt Blandino fires a pitch in last Thursday’s season opener against Fermi. Blandino had 18 strikeouts for the day.

Bristol Central’s Matt Blandino fires a pitch in last Thursday’s season opener against Fermi. Blandino had 18 strikeouts for the day.

By MICHAEL LETENDRE STAFF WRITER BRISTOL – When it comes to opening day scholastic baseball, sometimes the level of play isn’t quite up to par. But for the squad from Bristol Central, its first day of regular season activity showed exactly what the Rams’ season could be all about this year. And on Thursday, April 4, the team from Fermi of Enfield bumped into Central on the wrong afternoon as All- Conference, All-State, and All-World pitcher Matt Blandino absolutely demolished the Falcons. Blandino, per his usual, was pitching on another level and once Central picked up the lead, Fermi didn’t have a chance as the Rams zipped up a 6-0 CCC Interdivisional victory in Bristol. However, even as Central tallied an impressive shutout victory, Fermi hung tough and even threatened to knot an early deficit with a couple lucky breaks. Fermi (0-1) got a runner on base via a bunt hit in the third but didn’t have any luck getting him home while over the next frame, the Falcons went right at it again but came up empty. Trailing 2-0 going into the fourth, Fermi’s Greg Kraucunas reached safely via error and off a stolen base, the tying run was at the plate as the Falcons were a little more than pesky over the stanza. “Every team we play is a quality team because of the one-two schedule” as Central is in the top tier of the CCC schedule, said Bristol Central coach Bunty Ray. “They (Fermi) have seen success, obviously, over the years. They gave us fits a couple years ago. Last year, we were able to jump right on them and put the game away early. This time, it took us a little bit more time to get going offensively. Credit Fermi’s pitcher (Alex Zachary) but we also need to do a better job adjusting early on.” However, this game belonged to Blandino and he started his senior campaign off in style. He ended that threat in the fourth frame by fanning both Charles Smith and David Tucker to turn away any chance of Fermi sneaking into the contest. The Bristol chucker was on fire from pitch one as he racked up an amazing 18 strikeouts while walking only one batter all game long in another complete game effort. Blandino faced only four batters above the minimum and gave up only the one hit. “Matt was dominant,” said Ray of his ace pitcher. “He’s always going to be dominant.” With that stellar pitching – and the defense behind him making plays – Central just needed a few runs to ice the contest. While Central’s offense only posted six hits, each tally led to something bigger and eventually, a two-run third and a four-run fourth saw the home team go ahead by six runs. Mitch Guilmette led the hit parade with two doubles and three RBI. Matt Blandino also tallied an RBI double as did Jake Martel. Justen Jakubiak also added a double in the winning effort. At that point of the showdown, trailing 6-0, the Falcons probably thought they were trailing by 100 runs because a future NCAA Division I pitcher was absolutely blitzing the squad. Blandino needed just over 100 pitches to dispose of Fermi and after the third inning, Blandino faced only 14 batters and struck out 11 out the final 12 men he faced. Only four batters reached base in the game but all four ended up stranded. And once that 6-0 lead was firmly in place, Blandino opened things up and numerous Fermi batters – four out of the final nine batters he faced to be precise – did not swing at strike three. “When we started scoring runs, you could see everything kind of loosen up a little bit,” said Ray. “Our offensive run production allowed Blandino to challenge hitters more, allowed him to work corners, and not mix pitches as much as he had to.” Fermi’s Alex Zachary actually pitched well for the Falcons in the losing effort but he was lifted in the fourth stanza and that’s when the Rams blasted the visitors for four insurance runs to bust the game open. The contest was a stalemate over the first two frames but in the third, Central took advantage of Zachery and the Fermi defense. With one out, Blandino reached base via error and scored off a double by Guilmette to make it a 1-0 contest. One batter later, Martel smashed a double of his own and when Guilmette touched home plate, it was a 2-0 affair and Fermi was quickly behind the eight-ball. By the time the fourth stanza approached, Central quickly put the game to bed. Jakubiak walked to start the action, stole second, moved to third off a wild pitch. From there, Elijah Minella roped a hit towards third base that was nearly uncatchable and even as the defense got its mitts on the ball, it quickly zipped out of all in the infielders grasps – scoring Jakubiak – leading Central to a 3-0 edge. Minella moved to third off two past balls and suddenly, another runner was looking to score. Joey DeFillippi followed up with a walk, stole second and moved to third via a slicing bloop double to right-centerfield by Blandino as the RBI tally made the contest a 4-0 tilt with Central looking for more. With DeFillippi at third and Blandino on second, it was time for Guilmette to strike once again. Guilmette drove a ball into left-centerfield as both runners were plated and the Rams went ahead in the game 6-0 and it was just time for Blandino to mop up. In the fifth, all three Fermi batters looked at strike three for outs. While in the sixth, Chris Giottonni walked. But it was of little consequence as Blandino struck the final five batters of the contest and Central picked up a shutout victory to start its season off in style. “I’d like to see a little more offensive production but for opening day, and that left hander (Zachary) keeping us off-balanced, I thought we did a very good job of getting some big hits in big situations and, like I said, when you have a dominant pitcher, every run’s going to look like a million out there,” said Ray.