By MICHAEL LETENDRE
NEW BRITAIN – Bristol Central’s baseball team passed its first road test on Monday, April 8 against a very good New Britain team.
And the Rams needed a bit a lift off the mound in the game as the rotation saw Matt Blandino on his off day.
So, who would step up and take the challenge for Central
Try junior Jarrett Michaels and in his first ever starting assignment, he showed poise, grit and – perhaps – cemented his spot in the rotation.
Behind a five-hit, three-run effort, Michaels picked up a big victory as Central rang up an 8-3 CCC Interdivisional victory from Bee Hive Field in New Britain.
With the win, Central moved to 2-0 while New Britain fell to 1-2 on the campaign.
The game was a back and forth affair as Central took the initial lead, saw the Hurricanes tie it up, before the Rams cracked open the contest with a five-run sixth to put the thing out of reach.
Justen Jakubiak went 2-for-4 in the game and netted three RBI while seven total players had at least one hit in the fray.
In fact, it was Jakubiak who opened the day up with one of its biggest hits of the afternoon.
With the bases loaded, Jakubiak smashed out a three-run triple to open the game up as his RBI tallies made it a quick 3-0 push for the Rams after one frame of action.
The ball was actually misplayed in the outfield but the hit was ruled a three-base hit as the bases were quickly cleared.
But even with the three-run lead in hand and Michaels cruising through the game, things fell apart a bit in the fifth stanza.
And it felt like a little déjà vu as New Britain snared three runs off a triple.
With the bases loaded for the Hurricanes, Kevin Dukes ripped a ball into the outfield and very quickly, the game was tied at 3-3.
But Michaels quickly stopped the bleeding, pitching into the sixth inning and earning his first victory of the season.
“Besides the one inning when he loaded up the bases, he was good,” said Ray of Michaels. “He threw strikes. I had to take an early trip (to the mound) just to make sure he understood the situation. He’s not at the next level, he’s not a strikeout pitcher. He’s got to throw to his defense.”
“But he was outstanding…he threw the pitches he needed to, he gave us six strong innings, he kept us in the game long enough for our offense to get going.”
However, before Michaels exited the game, Central had a little more work to do in the top of the sixth.
And when it looked like Central wouldn’t be able to notch a run in the frame, a two-out rally ensued and five quick runs were scored in the decisive inning.
Blandino had a two-RBI single to get the go-ahead runs in and make it a 5-3 contest while DH Vinny Nocera also blasted a single for two RBI as the Rams’ lead was pushed out to four.
Soon after, the bases were loaded once again and Jake Martel zipped in an RBI single as Central went in front 8-3 and simply did not give the Hurricanes any additional momentum.
By the time the seventh frame came to pass, Michaels was lifted for Tony Nicoletti and the reliever gave up one hit, walked one and struck out two to close out the game.
New Britain’s Nick Rodriguez competed his butt off, according to Ray, and came away with three hits in four at-bats while scoring a run.
In the field, he simply scooped everything up that came his way at shortstop and helped the home team with his stellar defense to snuff out potential hits.
“New Britain’s shortstop was unbelievable,” said Ray of Rodriguez. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Ray like his team’s defense in the game and when New Britain had a chance to pop right back into it, the Rams refused to yield.
“The errors that we made were tough chances,” said Ray. “They weren’t routine errors. They could have been hits easily on a tough field. It was a dry field…it was a tough day to play defense on the surface that we were at.”
But the critical component for the Rams was to see who would do what on the mound when Blandino wasn’t throwing.
And so far, the junior has proven he is up to task for that number two role in the starting rotation.
“Michaels did his job, he gave up one earned run, in six innings” said Ray of his starting pitcher. “You can’t ask much more out of a pitcher than that.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE