By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – In the second game of the Bristol Little League Softball City Series challenge, it looked as if both squads – the Bandits and the Tigers – were going for the all-time scoring record.
But off a 5-5 start to the contest, the Tigers eventually settled in and turned a three run deficit into an eight-run victory as the Bandits fell by a 16-8 final from Casey Field in Bristol on Wednesday, June 10.
With the win, the Tigers moved on to play the Pride in a best-of-three championship series for the title which will be played in August during its usual time.
For the Tigers, relief pitcher Erin Girard made all the difference in the game – stopping the bleeding – and retired eight of the final nine batters she faced in a huge effort.
“Erin came in relief and did a very good job,” said Tigers coach Bernie Ericson. “She shut them down, kept them from getting any more runs ,and the defense played solid behind her.”
Girard struck out seven and allowed one hit and a single base-on-balls in the fray.
Tigers’ starter McKenzie Lewis struck out three over her 1.1 innings of work. But once Girard took over, the Bandits’ weren’t able to sort her out.
The Tigers used a big hitting attack to eventually take the lead and thanks to a five-run inning, a few additional runs weren’t tallied on the board for the victors.
Making only one error in the field, the Tigers set a tough defensive tone and with Girard firing away on the mound and the Bandits – though gamely hanging in – had a tough hill to climb once the squad lost its 8-5 lead.
“They’ve got a great hitting team,” Bandits coach Dave Rappleyea said of the Tigers.
Riley Giblin scored four runs, walking twice and zipping up an RBI while Emily Ericson added three walks and two RBI.
Lewis zipped up two hits, one walk, and two RBI and Girard punched home two singles, two walks, and a game high four RBI.
Lyzah Corliss smashed a grand slam in the final inning of play (because of the five-run rule, she was only allowed one base) and MaKenzie Bonville nabbed a base hit for two RBI.
Caitlyn Pacitto went 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored and to top it all off, mighty-mite Carol Sugrue walked twice, notched two runs and grabbed an RBI.
“We came through with the bats and some fortunate things happened for us on offense,” said Tigers coach Bernie Ericson. “We were able to pull it out.”
Eleven of the 16 runs scored by the Tigers had come from runners who walked to reach base.
Brooke Dorsio battled on the mound for three innings for the Bandits – punching out two batters – while Grozik came in during the fourth and final stanza to throw.
“I wanted my pitcher to throw strikes and to make (the Tigers) hit it,” said Rappleyea. “I’d rather lose by them hitting it than us walking everybody. And she pitched great, Brooke pitched great. She kept throwing the ball right around the plate.”
Allison Grozik tallied a double and an RBI to lead the Bandits while Mia Santilli and Olivia Beaudoin each registered a hit. The Bandits didn’t manufacture a hit in the first frame but took advantage of six walks, several passed balls, and wild pitches – leading to a quick 5-0 push after just half of inning of play.
But the Tigers, in the bottom of the first, matched that run total, and made it a 5-5 contest.
The Tigers first five base-runners crossed the plate as Bonville smashed out a two-RBI base hit and Pacitto beat out an infield single to score a run as it was all tied up after one.
But the Bandits struck back in the second stanza as Beaudoin and Grozik belted RBI hits. Off one last passed ball, it was an 8-5 game with the Tigers trailing again.
The Tigers got one back – via and RBI single from Lewis – but the Bandits were still in front by an 8-6 score after two completed frames.
“We had an inning where we held them to one run,” said Rappleyea. “We had our chances.”
But to end the frame, big foul-ball putouts by Grozik at first base and Beaudoin behind the plate got the Bandits out of the second ahead by two runs.
“We made some great defensive plays to keep us in the game,” said Rappleyea of the second inning.
But with Girard on the mound for the Tigers, the Bandits never scored again.
The Bandits didn’t score in the third inning as the Tigers went for five runs in the bottom of the third.
Giblin and Ericson each forced in a run by RBI base-on-balls while Girard nailed a two-RBI single and Corliss slammed one into the outfield as the Tigers led 11-8.
“This is a little league game and you never know what you’re going to get,” said Ericson.” We tell them (the players) if they see a pitch to hit that they like, go for it. If not, be patient and it seemed to work.”
Girard struck out five of the final seven batters she faced and off her final punch-out of the game, the Tigers still held its three-run push.
“They brought in their ace, she shut us down, (and) hats off to the Tigers,” said Rappleyea. “They played great…Erin pitched awesome. But in the end, we just didn’t hit enough.”
In the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers put five more runs on the board to close out the contest.
Sugrue added an RBI base-on-balls as did Ericson.
Lewis followed suit with a bases-loaded walk and to end it all, Girard unleashed a one-out single to left – scoring Giblin and Ericson – as the Tigers won it by eight.
Now, the Tigers and Price will wait until August to determine the ultimate City Series champion in what will be a huge two-out-of-three challenge.
“It’s a big (series) coming up,” said Ericson. “They’ve got a couple good pitchers, they’ve got a lot of good players. We split with them during the (regular) season. So it should be an interesting (series).
“We’re looking forward to it (and) I’m sure they are too.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE