By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The Bristol Central baseball team couldn’t seize any type of advantage during its first go around against Bristol Eastern back on May Saturday, May 10, which resulted in a 4-0 loss.
But this time around, the Rams struck first, put some runs on the board and were able to bounce back from adversity when it came Central’s way.
And in the end, it led to a 3-2 victory by the Rams in a CCC South challenge from Muzzy Field on Wednesday, May 28.
Central (12-7) used a little small ball to scratch those runs across and even as Eastern (8-12) tied the fray up midway through the affair, the Rams found late answers to capture the victory.
The Rams scored two first inning runs and while that lead didn’t hold, the team remained aggressive until finally notching the game-winning run in the top of the sixth frame.
“Last time, we weren’t able to capitalize on anything because we weren’t able to get any momentum,” said Central coach Bunty Ray. “This time, I think playing with a lead, that made a big difference in our psyche…coming out, scoring two runs right away, scrapping for those runs.”
“And as the game settled on, at least we had that to go back on.”
The Rams scored three times and on each RBI drive, the runs didn’t come off a base-hitting effort.
In the end, a sacrifice fly and two RBI groundouts proved to be the difference-maker as Eastern pitcher Nate Carney (5-2) limited the Rams to just three total hits in a tough losing effort.
“When he’s on the mound, we have a chance,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo of Carney. “But you have to make plays behind him.”
Carney was near brilliant seven, did not allow a free pass on the bases, and gave up just one hit over his first five frames of work.
At one point, Carney retired 15 of 17 batters he faced as a throwing error and a passed-ball third strike were the only Central runners to reach base during that stretch.
And While Central took advantage of Eastern miscues and gaffes behind Carney, Central’s pitching was nearly as sharp.
Jarrett Michaels was crisp, allowing two runs off six hits while posting six strikeouts and three walks in a tit-for-tat effort against Carney.
In just about every tough spot, Michaels made the pitch to keep the Rams out of hot watch.
“Jarrett is our guy,” said Ray of Michaels. “He’s 5-2 this year, he has a sub 1.00 ERA coming in and I think when you’ve got your guy on the mound, good things are going to happen. I think his presence on the mound made us play better overall.”
Central zipped up those two first inning runs off some hustle and guile.
Joey DeFillippi legged out an infield hit and Eli Minella reached base safely as his fly-ball to left field was not cleanly fielded as runners were on second and third.
From there, Michaels helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly to center – scoring DeFillippi – as the Rams led 1-0 off the bat.
A past-ball sent Minella to third base and off an RBI ground out by Kyle Pileski, it was a 2-0 game in Central’s favor.
“We misplayed some simple balls,” said Giovinazzo. “We opened the door and Central capitalized.”
Eastern responded in the bottom of the first, scoring a run and loading up the bases with one out but managed just the single tally.
Jake Coello started things off with a single to right but Kyle Baker grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Bryce Lebron followed with a walk and Jourdon Wydra (2-for-3) slapped a base hit to left to load things up.
Tommy Curtin popped up for the second out and Joe Dorsio struck out but the ball got away from the catcher – allowing Baker to score from third – as Eastern sliced the deficit to 2-1.
From there, the two star pitchers took over and runs were hard to come by.
Wydra had a two-out single in the third but went nowhere and Central had a two-out rally in the fourth fall short.
But in Eastern’s half of the fourth, the squad tied the game up at 2-2.
Eric Therrien legged out an infield hit and Josh Carney walked to put two runners on.
Therrien took third off a past-ball and Dave Sills hit a grounder to second that was deep enough to plate the lead runner and the fielder’s choice made it a 2-2 game.
But Central ended up getting a double-play ball off an error as Carney and Sills were both retired to end the frame.
In the sixth, the Rams took the lead for good.
Minella plopped a base hit into left field and Michaels dropped a single into short right to get the go-ahead runner on second base.
Pileski lofted a foul ball down the first base line that Therrien, at first base, hustled down and made a diving play on for the out but Central’s runners were on the move.
Minella sprinted for third – which was covered – but Michaels steam rolled to second as no Eastern fielder had moved to the bag to prevent the advancement.
And unfortunately for the Lancers, it set up a second and third situation with just one out gone in the frame.
“It’s was nobody’s fault…it was just a bizarre play,” said Giovinazzo. “Eric made a great catch but you know they’re (the runners) going to be going on it. Somebody has to line-up the throw and somebody has to cover-up for him. The second basemen was running down the right field line with him (Therriern), so he’s not (at second). Sills is lining up the throw at third base, which is the right thing to do (so) covers second?”
“The center-fielder? Maybe…”
Tony Nicoletti followed up with a grounder to shortstop and Minella charged home.
Sills chucked the ball to home-plate but the throw was not in time to get the runner as the fielder’s choice, RBI tally made it a 3-2 affair in Central’s favor.
“We give too many bases,” said Giovinazzo. “We just don’t make the basic plays defensively and it costs us. It’s simple things.”
But Eastern took advantage in the bottom of the fifth to almost knot the score up once again.
Colello reached via error and Baker snuck a hit past shortstop to put two on with no outs.
But Michaels got Lebron out on strikes and Wydra hit a liner right to third base in what turned into a 5-3 double play, ending the inning and snuffing out the possible Eastern rally as Central still led 3-2.
“We never shut down a play,” said Ray. “Our kids know that if something goes wrong, there’s another play to be made.”
Eastern had a runner onboard in both the sixth and seventh innings. But in the end, the Rams held on to win by a single run.
“Those runners shouldn’t be getting to third base,” said Giovinazzo, “and we’re letting them get to third base. And then Central is doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they get to third base.”
“They’re picking them up.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE