By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Bristol Eastern pitching ace Nate Carney was so on the mark in a city series game against Bristol Central on Saturday, May 10, it might have been one of the fastest games in Mum City history.
Carney was sharp, made each and every pitch count and didn’t allow any free passes as Eastern zipped up an impressive 4-0 tilt from Muzzy Field in a CCC South affair.
The victory, raising the Lancers’ record to 7-6 on the season, put the squad one win away from playoff qualification.
It was also Eastern’s first triumph against Central since May 26, 2011 when the Lancers beat the Rams 5-3.
But in this one, it was all about Carney on the mound as he completely shutdown Central’s line-up and only allowed one ball to safely reach the outfield.
In fact, Carney got a glove on that ball but it just zipped past him and up the middle.
Once Carney got into the groove, he retired the final 15 batters he faced and 18 of his last 19.
It was as dominating a performance on the mound as it gets.
“Starting pitching sets the tone for every game,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “What (Carney) did today, obviously, set the tone for us on both sides of the ball offensively and defensively.”
Overall, Central notched two hits, one each over the first two innings, but those runners went nowhere.
Carney did not walk a batter, only faced one full count in the game and stayed in front of just about every batter.
Central pitcher Jerry LaPenta (3-2) battled as well and went five-plus innings on the mound.
He gave up seven hits, struck out three, and walked three but gave up four extra base hits to absorb a tough loss.
However, with Eastern’s defense rolling right along, it hardly mattered.
“I think (LaPenta) made a few mistakes but that was about as clean as a performance as you’re going to get,” said Central coach Bunty Ray of Eastern. “They made every play, their pitcher (Carney) was outstanding, and they got the timely hits.”
The Lancers were the kings of the big hit and out of its seven tallies, Eastern smashed out four doubles in the game and none was any bigger than Eric Therrien’s two-out, two-RBI blast that made it a 4-0 game after five innings of play.
“That’s what we have not been doing” this year said Giovinazzo of getting the big hit. “We haven’t been getting the big hit. Today, we got the big hit and while it was only seven of them, we got them at the right time.”
Central’s Jarrett Michaels legged out an infield hit in the first stanza while in the second, Lapenta jacked a single up the middle but after that, Central’s bats went silent.
“I don’t think we challenged them with anything really hard,” said Ray. “I thought (Carney) did really well. I really didn’t really see any tough chances out there. I thought it was all routine plays that (Eastern’s defense) made. We didn’t drive the ball at all and that’s a product of good pitching.”
Eastern second basemen Jake Colello (2-for-4, RBI) was outstanding in the field while shortstop David Sills (1-for-2, run scored), and third basemen Kyle Baker were all on the mark and backed up Carney’s outstanding effort.
“When you throw strikes, your team is on their toes, and they’re not on their heels,” said Giovinazzo. “That what (Carney) does for us. He keeps his fielders in the game.”
After a quiet two innings offensively, Eastern got on the board in the third inning off a little small ball.
Sills started the frame with an infield hit and Josh Carney sacrificed him over to second base.
From there, Colello nailed a double to the gap in right-centerfield – scoring Sills – as Eastern led by a 1-0 push.
That score held up into the fifth stanza as Eastern’s offense struck pay dirt three additional times.
But it was off the power of two huge two-out doubles by Tommy Curtin (1-for-3, RBI) and Therrien to put the event out of reach.
With one out, Colello flipped a single up the middle and Joe Dorsio drew a walk to put two on.
Curtin then sent a ball to the gap in left-center as Colello crossed the plate and the Lancers went in front 2-0.
With two ducks in the pond and in scoring position, Therrien had the hit of the afternoon as his loud double to left scored Dorsio and Curtin to make it a 4-0 push and those insurance tallies were more than enough support for Carney on the mound.
“You know, you’re playing from behind, you’re trying to challenge a hitter there, you’re hoping something good’s going to happen and (Therrien) makes a play,” said Ray.
Michaels came in to replace Lapenta on the mound and didn’t allow any additional hits in the fray.
In the bottom of the fifth, Central went down in order again as the Lancers’ 4-0 edge was the score of choice by the visitors.
“We never had a guy on second base the whole day,” said Ray. “We never put any pressure (on Eastern)….”
NOTES…It was the 80th all-time showdown between the schools and the Lancers lead the series 44-36.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE