By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – It was an instant classic at Breen Field on Sunday evening, Aug. 25.
And it involved the Edgewood Phillies and Forestville Yankees, deadlocked in an intense City Series championship battle.
With the game tied 5-5, all it would take was one run to either close the thing out for the Phillies or lead to a tie-breaking contest for the Yankees in the best-of-three challenge the following Tuesday.
In the end, it was a sacrifice fly by Edgewood’s Evan Bouchard – plating Tyler Stickles – as the Phillies won the City Series championship 6-5.
It was a big play that sealed the victory for Edgewood as a timely fly-ball, plus some superb base running, did-in Forestville at the end.
“He was going no matter what,” said Edgewood manager Rick Fradette of Stickles off the sacrifice fly. “Even if it was caught and he got thrown out at home, he was going. We were forcing (the outfielder) to make a good throw. Tyler is really super fast and we just told him as soon as you see it up (in the air), tag and you’re gone.”
For the fourth straight campaign, and five out of the past six years, Edgewood ruled supreme in City Series play and has taken the championship.
Credit belongs to Forestville as the squad never gave up, never gave in, and made it all the way back from a 5-0 deficit to tie things up in the contest.
“I give them a lot of credit,” said Forestville manager Richie Santana of the comeback. “I knew they had it in them. We were closer than we were the last game (against Edgewood) definitely.”
But for the victors, it was all Edgewood early and it took just three pitches to tally the first run of the evening.
Leadoff hitter Noah Plantamuro jacked a 2-0 pitch over the right field fence to instantly make it a 1-0 contest in the visitors favor.
But off two consecutive errors that placed Cory Fradette at second base, Forestville starting pitcher Richie Santana struck out three straight to stop the bleeding at 1-0.
In the bottom of the stanza, Forestville threatened as Anthony Marrotti singled and Jake Santiago earned a base-on-balls to put two on with one out.
But Santana hit into a double-play as his grounder was snatched by Edgewood shortstop Cory Fradette as he stepped on second base for the second putout and threw the ball to home-plate as Marrotti attempted to score from third.
Caught in a pickle, catcher T.J. Kutarba tagged Marrotti out as Edgewood got out of a serious jam and still led 1-0 after one.
Santana caught his groove on the mound in the second, striking out the three – and six straight – as the game was certainly afoot and both teams were in it to win it.
In the third, Santana continued his dominance with his seventh straight strikeout before walking Plantamuro to put a runner on.
Fradette followed up with a single and eventually, Edgewood had runners on second and third with only one gone.
But two strikeouts later – Santana’s ninth strikeout out of his last 11 batters he faced – it was a still a 1-0 game 2 1/2 frames into the fray with Edgewood hanging on to the slim lead.
“Richie stood out on the mound today,” said Santana. “He did a great job. Even though (Edgewood) squeezed hits out, he kept his head in the game.”
Forestville was right back at it again in the third, putting runners on first and third with two outs. But off Plantamuro’s fifth K of the game, the visiting team kept its leading margin alive.
In the top of the fourth, Edgewood was right back to its offensive tricks.
With two out, Bouchard walked, advanced to second via a wild pitch and then, baiting catcher Cyr to make a throw to third, the crafty Edgewood runner went for it.
But Cyr out-threw the base and the back-up behind the bag as well, allowing Bouchard to score and make it a 2-0 game midway through the fourth tilt.
Edgewood had its top of its order up in the fifth and the visiting outfit was quite aggressive over the frame.
Plantamuro stroked a single to center but was called out trying to advance to second off the play while Fradette followed up with a blazing triple to left-centerfield with one out.
Off a walk to T.J. Kutarba, Marrotti was hustled in to pitch and with two on, he was put in a tough situation with Nate Beaudet at the plate.
And Beaudet made the new pitcher pay as the batter slapped a single to left-center, scoring both Fradette and Kutarba, as Edgewood upped its push to 4-0.
Beaudet eventually moved to third off a wild pitch and quickly scored when a grounder by Danny Bond was not cleanly fielded by the pitcher, leading to a 5-0 zip for the Phillies.
“All night, they just tried to tack on a couple runs (with) aggressive running,” said Fradette of his team. “They also made a couple of huge plays defensively.”
Plantamuro was sensational on the mound, throwing a crisp 4.2 innings with 10 strikeouts, three walks and three hits before his work was done.
“Noah pitched a great game,” said Fradette.
Bouchard came in during the fifth, walked Jake Santiago to load things up before Santana took his at-bat.
Santana sent a ball soaring to centerfield but it was dropped off the catch as three runners crossed the plate and the deficit was chopped to 5-3.
With Santana on third, a wild pitch scored the runner, and suddenly, it was a one-run game at 5-4.
But even as Preston Akerley walked and Noah Mirasola drew a full count, Bouchard struck out the later to end the inning and once again Edgewood’s edge was only one.
In the sixth, Edgewood wrangled up a bunt hit with one out but it went nowhere and with the bottom part of the order up for the Yankees, it was do or die time in the final at-bats for the team as the series hanging in the balance.
Bouchard rang up two quick outs but Ellis Carmelich blasted a triple to left field as the tying run was on base.
With Jordan Cyr at the plate, the young man was certainly due for a big hit.
The count was full when Jordan sliced a ball to shortstop that was knocked down but not playable as Carmelich scored the tying run off the RBI hit.
Shockingly, the game was forced into extra frames as the comeback by Forestville saw the game knotted up at 5-5.
In the top of the seventh, Beaudet notched an infield hit, Bond floated a single to right and Evan Chipman reached first off a fielder’s choice to load the bases up.
From there, Bouchard lofted a fly-ball to right, which was caught for the second out of the seventh. But Stickles – running in place of Beaudet scored – from third to break the stalemate.
Off the sacrifice fly, the Phillies went in front 6-5 with the game still hanging in the balance.
But ever resourceful Forestville wouldn’t go away and put together yet another rally.
Marrotti hit a bloop single to right and Santana walked with one out to put the tying and go-ahead runners onboard.
And then to end the fray, Mirasola drilled a single to center for a base hit and it appeared the Yankees had the bases loaded.
Marrotti went to round third base, had to avoid bumping into manager Richie Santana – who was attempting to communicate with another base runner – and in the process, took a real outside route to home plate that slowed him down considerably.
The ball quickly made it to the catcher as Marrotti tried to retreat back to third but was tagged out before he could safely make it to the bag, ending the game, as Edgewood won 6-5 to claim the championship trophy.
“He almost, like, ran through me,” said Santana who was in the third base coach’s box during the play. “I was trying to stop my son at second base, making sure he wasn’t rounding the bag because the ball was coming in.”
“Anthony, that was the one who came in (at third), went around me and I didn’t get a chance to stop him…he was on his way (home).”
Regardless of the outcome and the 2-0 sweep in City Series Championship play, Forestville came to fight and left everything on the field before things were all said and done.
“I’m proud of those kids,” said Santana. “They played their hearts out.”
And another championship for Edgewood – the first one for the Phillies – was ever so sweet as manager Rick Fradette got a bit of a cooler bath by a couple of his players while the championship trophy was awarded to the winners.
“I was thinking it was going back and forth and we were going to have to be out here Tuesday and it’s going to be another game like this,” said Fradette. “I’m glad it ended tonight.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE