By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – In the end, somebody had to lose a 12-inning, scholastic baseball war that saw two evenly matched teams duke it out from Muzzy Field in Bristol on Monday, June 2.
Both Bristol Central, the 15th ranked squad in the Class LL field, had its hands full with no. 18 New Milford in a battle that needed extra frames to determine an ultimate victor.
And unfortunately, the Green Wave held on to win it – scoring a run in the top of the 12th inning – as New Milford earned a 5-4 victory to advance in tournament play.
Central ended its season at 13-8 but the home team threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Green Wave (12-9) before things were finally said and done.
But the final inning proved to be the 12h as New Milford made its collective move to break a 4-4 stalemate.
It all started as leadoff hitter Anthony Gesualdi zipped a double to right-centerfield while teammate and starting pitcher Sam Pitser blasted the hit of the game.
Pitser sent a three-base hit to deep left-center – scoring Gesauldi – as New Milford went ahead in the fray by a single run.
“That’s a great offensive team,” said Central coach Bunty Ray. “That’s probably one of the best offensive teams I’ve seen all year beside Berlin.”
But even as the Green Wave went ahead 5-4 in the contest, the Rams responded during its portion of the final stanza.
Jake Hall walked off a full count to put the tying run onboard and advanced to second via a wild pitch.
Central had three chances to get that runner home. But in the end, a ground-out, a strikeout, and a pop-up caught in foul territory ended the contest as the Rams fell by a run.
“My coaches wanted me to squeeze at the end there but, at that point, you’ve got to look for a little contact and you’ve got to do more against that relief pitcher than we did,” said Ray. “We had some bad at-bats against that kid (Davlos).”
But Central had chances and just seemingly couldn’t get those necessary runs in.
The Rams struggled to get runners in early in the contest, stranding 14 overall, as Central could have built a bigger cushion for its self midway through things.
“So, you’re in the Class LL tournament, you have to get as many runs as possible to give yourself a little bit of a cushion,” said Ray. “And obviously, we couldn’t score those runs early enough.”
Central’s Jarrett Michaels pitched well over his seven-plus innings of work but was casualty of a no-decision.
He threw strikes, kept the pressure on and really only got into trouble in the sixth inning of play.
“He made two mistakes (and) that’s about it,” said Ray of Michaels. “Those mistakes just cost him. That’s two mistakes, I know, he wishes he could have back. You’re asking a kid to be perfect all the time because of the lack of run support. We do play some pretty good defense but, let’s face it, he just made two mistakes and they got hits off him.”
“The one walk was uncharacteristic but that’s the game.”
Jake Collins threw an inning of relief for Central and later, usual starter Jerry LaPenta was thrust into the game and hung around to the end.
LaPenta absorbed the loss and ended the campaign at 4-4.
Both teams collected 12 hits in the game and notched just a single error in what turned out to be a very well-played affair.
Pitser had three hits in the contest and was just a home run away from completing a cycle.
The Rams raced out to a 3-1 push after three frames of work but its offense stalled out until the ninth inning when a run was needed to keep the pace.
In the first stanza, Central’s Kyle Pileski slammed out an RBI double to give the Rams a 1-0 edge but in the top of the second, New Milford got that run back to make it a 1-1 affair.
In the bottom of the third, it appeared as if Central tallied an imposing 3-1 lead – highlighted by an RBI double by Hall – as the Rams zipped up the two run advantage.
The score remained the same until the sixth frame when the Green Wave struck for two runs.
With one out, Jackson Olson eked out an RBI single to left field to make it a 3-2 game and with the bases loaded and two outs, Jerrod Gesauldi picked up the biggest walk of the game.
The bases were loaded when Gesauldi drew a base on balls as Pitser scored to tie things up at 3-3 after six.
“They had kids that could make plays,” said Ray of New Milford. “They got big hits. I mean, that was a big offensive line-up.”
Both teams could not put anything together in the seventh inning and extra innings quickly ensued.
In the eighth, New Milford had runners on first and second with one out but Collins closed out the frame to keep it a 3-3 ball-game.
Central had two on in the eighth as well but reliever – and eventual winner Mike Davlos – shut down the rally as both teams entered the ninth with the 3-3 tie intact.
However, each squad netted a run to keep the stalemate alive and well.
For New Milford, Cormac Roberts singled, stole second, and after advancing to third on a grounder, he scored off a Collins’s wild pitch as the visiting squad nailed up a 4-3 lead to end its portion of the ninth.
But the Rams responded in turn.
Michaels singled to left and off a Pileski sacrifice bunt, Central had a runner in scoring position.
He advanced to third off a Nicoletti grounder and it was the perfect set-up for Hall.
Hall slammed a ball to centerfield as the RBI tally once again made it a tie game in a tit-for-tat 4-4 contest.
Both teams did not have anything brewing over the next two innings offensively but in the top of the 11th, Central’s defense picked it up a notch.
Off a 1-4-3 double play, New Milford’s momentum was quashed but Central went down in order to drag a 4-4 game into the 12th and final tilt of play.
In the end, Pitser hit his RBI triple and that tally proved to be the game winner and end Central’s campaign with the 5-4 loss.
“The bottom line is we didn’t execute today and I thought that really hurt us,” said Ray of the Central offense. “Not being able to move a runner here or there, put pressure on (the New Milford defense). I thought early, we could have been aggressive on the bases…I mean when you’re in a one run game, you’re going to look at every little play under the microscope.”
But in the end, a second place finish in the CCC South, a home tournament game and 13 wins highlighted a very good season by the Rams.
And Central seemed to be just one hit away in advancing to the second round of state tournament play.
“We were an inch away here,” said Ray. “Jarrett and Kyle had a good game. They all had moments but you need to have more that moments in order to win a tournament game.”
The game marked the final contest for seniors Barry McPhail, Joey DeFillippi, Eli Minella, Ron Tessman, Jimmy Godbout, Jarrett Michaels, Kyle Pileski, Anthony Amenta, and Jake Collins.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE