By MICHAEL LETENDRE
TORRINGTON – If the Litchfield Cowboys had any chance of taking the best of three series against Bristol in the Connecticut State Twilight League playoffs, then it had to defeat the Greeners in the opening contest between the two squads in Sunday, Aug. 12.
And with an early 2-0 lead in hand, Litchfield had the makings of a victory against Bristol.
But it would not come to pass as relief pitcher Geoff Pierce came in to just about completely shut down the Cowboys’ offense and Bristol outscored Litchfield 4-1 the rest of the way as the Greeners racked up a 4-3 come-from-behind victory in second round action from Fuessenich Park in Torrington.
Pierce was near brilliant as he pitched the final six innings of the showdown and gave up just one hit – an RBI tally to Adam Claire – and when push came to shove, the masterful chucker was on the money.
“Pierce was huge today because Joey (Randall) started and he got a little stiff in the third inning,” said Bristol coach Shawn Mirmina. “Pierce was our long relief guy today. He came in and pitched his (butt) off.”
Over his six innings of work, Pierce yielded just the one hit, walked two, and struck out three in a very even performance.
Randall started the game and gave up just four hits in his three innings of work, striking out two, and not giving up a single walk.
His only real gaffe came in the first frame of play when Litchfield (13-9) did its most damage on the afternoon.
With two outs, Mike Odenwalder (1-for-4, run) sent the first pitch he saw into left for a base hit, which was followed by a plate appearance by big Chris Beach.
Beach smashed a ball over the fence in left as his two-run homer propelled Litchfield – the home team in the affair – to a quick 2-0 push.
Bristol (17-5) managed only six hits in the game but each one led to something bigger as the game wore on.
That hitting wasn’t more evident than in the third tilt as Bristol came back to tie up the game at 2-2.
A little luck was necessary as well and the Cowboys were more than happy to comply.
First, Matt Godbout reached first base off an error as his infield pop-up was dropped and Tyler Bush also made it to first via a gaff as his grounder wasn’t cleanly fielded by third baseman Ben Murphy.
With one out and runners on first and third, Tyler McIntyre (2-for-5, RBI, run) roped a double to right-centerfield – scoring Godbout – and cutting the deficit in half at 2-1.
“Little things win games,” said Mirmina. “T-Mac (McIntyre) had two hits for us. Whenever he gets up, he can make things happen.”
With Bush now at third base, Marco Ross (2-for-5, RBI, run) grounded out to second but the lead runner crossed the plate and the game was quickly knotted at 2-2.
Litchfield struggled to get runners across the plate against Pierce but in the fifth, the Cowboys once again assumed control of the game.
Colin Dickinson walked to open the fifth and Drew Gauvain moved him over to second base off a sacrifice bunt.
Ed Dequignot flew out to center but Claire (2-for-4, RBI, stolen base) singled home Dickinson as Litchfield edged in front 3-2.
But the Cowboys were threatening again one inning later.
In the sixth, as quick as Pierce got himself into trouble, he got himself right out.
Pierce hit Beach with a pitch and walked two others as the Cowboys had the bases juiced with one out.
From there, he struck out Dickinson and got Gauvain to groundout as Litchfield’s lead remained at 3-2.
“This game was all (about) Pierce,” said Mirmina. “That’s the biggest game of the year for Geoff right now.”
Up until the seventh inning, Litchfield pitcher Joey Serafin was cruising along but he got tired late into the game.
In the seventh, Serafin finally faltered and the Greeners took the lead for good – all off a two-out jaunt.
McIntyre slammed a ball into right for a hit and Ross zipped out a bloop single to short centerfield to put two runners on.
Serafin then walked the next three Bristol batters as his control went out the window.
First, the base-on-balls to T.J. Wyrebek (1-for-2) loaded things up and off consecutive walks to Stephen Clout and Nick Palmisanno (three walks, RBI), two runs were forced in and off the second tally – scoring Ross – the Greeners’ lead was 4-3.
“We had a few hits here and there but two runs were walked in,” said Mirmina. “We were patient at the plate and our defense was solid today. We had a couple of guys playing out of position just to make the line-up a little better.”
“It worked out well.”
Pierce then retired six straight, leading into the ninth inning.
Litchfield’s Karl Quist reached base off a ground-ball error to open the ninth. But three quick outs later, the contest was over and Bristol came away with a tremendous one-run victory.
The Cowboys needed to steal this one. But off the loss, Litchfield now will have to win twice at Muzzy Field as the Greeners can close out the fray with either a victory on Monday, Aug. 11 or Tuesday, Aug. 12.
It’s a tall order either way to matter how you slice it for Litchfield.
“That’s a huge win for us,” said Mirmina. “Now we have Ziedzwiecki (for game two). We really have two aces and he’s one of them. He’s going (to pitch) on Monday. Hopefully, we can close out the series Monday and then face the winner of Tri-Town and Bethlehem.”