By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central baseball team turned away a very stern challenge from a pesky Plainville squad in a CCC South affair on Friday, May 2.
The young team from Bristol had to battle early but finally secured a lead midway through the fray. In the end, the Rams nabbed a satisfying 6-3 victory from Muzzy Field.
With the win, Central improved its ledger to 7-4 on the campaign while Plainville evened out at 4-4 in the losing effort.
Early miscues put the home squad behind on the scoreboard in the first inning, prompting Central coach Bunty Ray to make a trip out to the mound to get the battery, including winning pitcher Jerry LaPenta, on the same page.
However, Central quickly settled down, the defense picked up the slack and then it was all about the offense as the Rams put up 10 hits on the board to secure a big win over a very hungry opponent.
“I like the way we’ve been playing,” said Central coach Bunty Ray. “We’re a young team, we’re going to make mistakes. There were some mistakes on some miscommunications, that’s why I was a little upset because down the road, those things are going to show up. But, it’s a mark of a good team that can turn around, take those miscommunications, put it behind them, and go out and play some good baseball.”
But Plainville didn’t hand the game over to the Rams and put up one heck of a fight until the final out was recorded.
Plainville led 1-0 after just a half inning of work, tied the game at 2-2 through two frames of action and loaded the bases in the sixth – with no outs – and had a chance to snuff out a 5-2 deficit.
“(Plainville) scrapped, I have to give them credit,” said Ray. “They came here with a purpose. But I have to give my kids even more credit because they were able to go out and win a close game. They came up with some big hits.”
LaPenta pitched well over his five innings of work, yielding just five hits and two earned runs while striking out two to earn a big win, his second victory of the campaign.
Jarrett Michaels relieved LaPenta in the sixth – with the bases loaded and no one out – and struck out the side to keep Central in front by that 5-2 count.
On the other side of the ball, Central got an outstanding effort from Tony Nicoletti at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored while Michaels was 2 of 3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBI.
Most of Central’s line-up connected with a timely hit as Eli Minella, Kyle Pileski, Jacob Hall, Nick Sassu, and Barry McPhail all produced at the plate during the winning effort.
“I thought our at-bats were great all day,” said Ray. “We’ve been working on shortening our swings. Even our outs today, I thought, we hit pretty well. I’m very pleased with our offense.”
Marc Milo (3-for-4) had a big day while Jon Lindgren (2-for-3) kept Plainville in contention at the plate while Matt Sauvron, Rob Pezzulo, and Kyle Beloin all nabbed a hit in the losing effort.
Plainville had some big hits early. However, over the final three innings, the Blue Devils left six runners on base as the hitting dried up a bit.
“The hitting’s getting better, we’re getting better,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville. “The first three of our five games, we didn’t score a run. We’ve been working hard on it and it’s getting better. The bottom of the line-up is starting to get on more.”
“We’re getting better.”
Plainville had some outstanding efforts from the outfield to keep the thing within reach.
Munson made a diving catch in right field to rob LaPenta of a extra-base hit in the second frame while Sauvron gunned down a runner at home off a slick tag-out by catcher Cody Charneski later in the game.
“You come here, you play the game hard, you hustle, that’s all you can ask,” said Mandeville of the defensive. “And then look at the scoreboard at the end and hope you have a larger number than the other team.”
“And today, you can’t fault the effort. They hustled, they played hard, they played good defense.”
Rob Pezzulo battled for Plainville on the mound but absorbed a tough loss.
In 3.2 innings of work, Pezzulo gave up five runs off eight hits while walking two and striking out a runner in the losing effort.
Jon Lindgren threw a scoreless 1.1 innings of work and struck out two in the fifth inning alone; Beloin also threw a frame, giving up a run off two hits, while walking one and posting a strikeout.
But in the first, Plainville pasted together a drive and scored the first run of the game.
With two outs, Pezzulo smoked a double to left-centerfield, advanced to third off a passed-ball and scored on a wild pitch to put the Blue Devils ahead 1-0.
But Central scored two runs in the bottom of the first during a two-out rally of its own.
Nicoletti singled, Jimmy Godbout drew a two-out walk; with two on, Pileski smashed a single to center – scoring the lead runner – to tie the game at 1-1.
But as the ball was thrown home, Godbout broke for third base and Plainville’s Charneski attempted to throw the runner out.
But the ball got away from Lindgren at third and rolled into left field.
Godbout sprinted home to make it a 2-1 game in Central’s favor.
In the second, Plainville got right back into it and knotted the game at 2-2.
Milo slapped a double to left and Lindgren executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the lead runner to third base.
From there, Beloin slammed an RBI single to center, scoring Milo, as the Blue Devils tied the event at 2-2.
Buzz Adams drew a walk and a past-ball put runners on second and third with one out as Plainville continued to threaten.
But off a grounder from Charneski to third, Beloin was tagged out – at third base as he was attempting to get back to the bag – and Central eventually got out of the inning still tied up at 2-2.
Central opened the game up in the third as an RBI double from Michaels scored Nicoletti and a sacrifice fly by Godbout plated Minella to post Central to a 4-2 push.
With two outs, Hall pasted an RBI single to right-center – scoring Michaels – as the Rams led by a 5-2 tally after three completed frames.
“On our side, we didn’t make those pitches when we had to,” said Mandeville. “They got a couple guys on, they dug in and we left it out over the plate. It’s one thing to get guys on but it’s another thing to battle out of it and make some pitches when you have to and find a way to get out of the jam.”
With Jon Lindgren slowing down the Central offense in his relief appearance on the mound, Plainville nearly got back into the game off what could have been a game-changing sixth frame at the plate.
Munson started the drive, reaching base off an infield error; back-to-back singles from Milo and Lindgren juiced the bases for the Blue Devils.
LaPenta left the game in favor of Michaels and the reliever quickly caught fire.
With the go-ahead runner at the plate three different times during the inning, Michaels struck out the side – needing just 11 pitches – as the Rams got out of a huge jam and maintained its 5-2 edge.
“He needs to get more credit for what he’s done,” said Ray of Michaels. “(Michaels) comes in, he pitches, he hits, he plays defense, he makes a diving catch.”
Michaels continued his stellar play with an RBI single in the sixth as Central rode up a 6-2 lead going into the final stanza of play.
But Plainville hardly went away and remained defiant to the end.
Sauvron and Pezzulo stroked out back-to-back singles and with two outs, Milo sent a single into left field – scoring Sauvron – as Plainville got within three at 6-3 and once again, the tying run was batting at the plate.
But Lindgren flew out to end the game as Central wrapped up an impressive 6-3 win from Bristol.
“We’re far better off than we started on March 17,” said Ray of his squad. “And I’ve got to keep building on that with this young team. We have a lot of inexperience out there but you know me, I’m never happy. We’re going to keep coaching them (and) they’re going to keep responding.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE