By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTH WINDSOR – Without its complete roster to start the 2013 Manchester Twilight League playoffs, the Bristol Knights fought gamely against the Locos Perro Expos on Monday, Aug. 5 but in the end, the locals were simply outmatched.
Expos pitcher Alex Iannone threw a two-hitter against Bristol as Locos slammed the Knights 8-0 in the first round of tournament action.
With the loss, Bristol fell to 9-17 on the year and was eliminated from tournament play.
The Knights simply couldn’t get it together offensively against Locos (10-14-2) and in the field – with just about the entire team playing out of position – Bristol struggled and made several gaffes that led to more than a couple of unearned runs in the fray.
“We definitely felt undermanned today,” said Bristol coach Scott Dickens.
Credit belongs to the Expos’ outfield as Bristol smacked the ball around the park but just about each and every time the squad looked to be on the verge of getting someone on, an outstanding catch and putout was made and the Knights saw precious few base-runners make it onboard safely.
But while some of the regulars in the field for Bristol were playing in those irregular positions, the Knights still made a run at it and Iannone had to sweat a little bit to start the first inning.
Julio Ortiz-Rivera (1-for-2, walk) laid down a perfect bunt to open the game, reaching base safely, and with one out, Mike Scanlon walked as two runners were on.
But the Knights’ offense went silent as Iannone retired the next 13 batters he faced to snuff out any momentum Bristol was building towards.
Knights’ starting chucker Luke Palma hung in there and notched three straight strikeouts before getting into a little trouble in the second frame.
Overall, Palma went six innings and notched six strikeouts in a tough, losing effort and dropped to 4-4 on the campaign.
“Luke pitched pretty good,” said Dickens. “He’s a very good pitcher. He’s a reliever in college and he just stretched it out all season long. He turned into a real solid starter for us. I hope in college, they consider him to be a long (reliever) if he wants to.”
“I know his arm’s been a little tender lately but he’s a great pitcher.”
With one out in the second, Zak Turner (2-for-2, stolen base) was hit by a pitch as the bases were loaded.
A failed pick-off attempt at second base saw a runner cross the plate while Pete Villa III drilled an RBI single to right as the Expos went ahead in the showdown 2-0 after two completed frames.
With Iannone on cruise control, a passed ball, an RBI single by Alex Fortin and finally, a sacrifice fly saw Perro, notch three additional runs as the home team zipped up a 5-0 edge over Bristol.
The Expos added a run in the fourth to make it a 6-0 game and off a 4-3 RBI fielder’s choice by Villa in the fifth, Perro’s cushion grew to seven runs.
Offensively, it just wasn’t to be for Bristol as the deficit seemingly grew put of reach by the inning.
“We just had to piece it together today and it didn’t work,” said Dickens.
In the sixth frame, it appeared that Bristol was finally going to get into the flow offensively and make a run at it.
With two outs, Ricky Blais (walk, hit-by-pitch) drew a base-on-balls, which was followed by a fly-ball to right from Devin Zeller for Bristol’s second hit of the game.
The rightfielder went to dive for the ball but the play wasn’t made and the out wasn’t recorded.
As Blais was headed into third base, the ball was thrown away but that did not deter Jeff Durso.
The third basemen chased down the ball as the Bristol runner sprinted home, threw it to the catcher who quickly tagged Blais before he got to the plate for the third out of the stanza and the shutout by Iannone remained intact at 7-0.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Expos netted one last run as Perro made it an 8-0 game and Bristol was down to its final three outs of the evening.
The Knights once again tried to get the offense moving as Scott Dickens walked and with two outs, Blais was plunked with the ball.
But with two on, Zeller struck out Palma to end the thing as Iannone racked up his sixth strikeout of the night and Locos Perro advanced in the playoff bracket with a 8-0 win.
The Expos moved to 10-14-2 on the season while the Knights ended things at 9-17.
“We all kind of slumped with our batting for a good part of the year,” said Dickens. “We are definitely better than we showed.”