By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – This past weekend’s doubleheader against Terryville and Southington wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans if the Bristol Legion baseball team dropped its game against Unionville on Thursday night, July 10.
Those were the stakes that Post 2 were staring down at off a disheartening 4-2 loss to Avon the previous day in what was a very winnable game.
After losing three straight games – including two to Zone 1 foes – getting a big victory over Post 32 would excise a couple demons that the previous day’s work unfortunately provided.
And it looked like Post 2 was headed down another slippery slope as Unionville was leading Bristol 2-0 going into the sixth inning of play.
But Post 2 sucked it up, scored three unanswered runs over the final two frames and gutted out a badly needed 3-2 win from Tunxis Meade Park in Farmington.
The victory propelled Bristol to 10-8 in the Zone 1 standings and, more importantly, placing Post 2 in third place in the zone with four huge weekend games on the horizon.
The must-win game against Unionville saw Jarrett Michaels (1-for-3, RBI, run) and Jake Hall (2-for-3, RBI) smack out back-to-back RBI doubles in the sixth to make it a 2-2 affair and Bristol captured the lead for good in the seventh off a little small ball tomfoolery.
“Very easily, when we were down 2-0, we could have rolled over and died,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “We could have just gone away and taken another loss.”
Bristol (15-12-1 overall) didn’t have its best game offensively but the seven hits the squad did generate was all that was necessary to win it.
But the second inning proved to be costly for Post 2 as three errors led to both of Unionville’s runs and after two completed frames, the 2-0 hole Bristol was facing looked a little more than imposing.
“We didn’t play well to start the game,” said LaPenta. “We had three errors on the board before the second inning was over.”
But the one warrior who refused to give in was Bristol pitcher Nate Carney.
He went the distance for the visitors to earn his second victory of the campaign.
Carney scattered seven hits over his stint on the mound and even when he looked like he was getting into trouble, he quickly worked his way out to preserve the win with a big “K” or a timely putout.
“It was big,” said LaPenta of Carney’s effort. “Part of the problem is some of these guys are pitching on three days rest because we have so many games. I purposely not let Nate pitch for a week and it shows a big difference in how they pitch.”
“They’re still kids…on three days rest, they’re just not used to it.”
Carney struck out eight – truly hitting his stride midway through the game – and walked just three, one intentionally.
Throw out those second inning errors and it was doubtful Unionville could have posted any runs on the board at all in the contest.
“It was huge…he came up huge for us,” said LaPenta of Carney.
Jake Colello added a hit in the winning effort as did Jake Martel, who slammed a triple over the first inning of play.
Greg Lozier beat out and infield hit and Vinny Nocera’s drew a base-on-balls in the seven frames and eventually scored the game winning tally.
Ben Rosetti led Unionville (7-12) with two hits and pitcher Bailey Meccariello (five strikeouts, five hits) threw well over his sixth innings but ended the day with a no decision.
Ethan Finn pitched the final inning for Unionville and absorbed the tough loss for the squad.
While Bristol showed signs of getting on the scoreboard early, the runs remained elusive.
In the first, Martel sent his two-out triple to deep centerfield but Meccariello ended up striking out the side to keep the game a scoreless affair.
In the top of the second, Martin posted a two-out double and Jerry LaPenta (walk, sacrifice bunt) drew a base on bases.
But Martin tried to take third base of the walk, was caught in a pickle and tagged out to end the Bristol threat.
In the bottom of the second, Unionville struck for its two runs.
Dan Paul notched an infield hit to open things, the ball was thrown away off the play and the runner ended up at second via the miscue.
Tom Siuta followed with a single to right as Paul scored to make it a 1-0 game.
But off the next play, Max Germano bunted – possibly hitting the ball off himself before getting out of the batter’s box – and the sacrifice allowed Siuta to take second.
However, the throw to first base to get Germano went wide.
With no one covering third base, Siuta rounded second and was looking to advance.
The ball was thrown and misplayed at third, rolling all the way to fence, which allowed Siuta to score.
And in damning fashion, Bristol was down by a 2-0 push.
Both pitchers took control from there but after each side saw 1-2-3 innings in the fifth, Post 2 made its stand to tie up the game.
And it all came via a two-out rally as Martel grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that saw Colello get punched out at second base.
Martel stole second to get into scoring position and from there, Michaels and Hall unleashed scorching back-to-back RBI doubles to tie the score and even as Hall was thrown out at third – trying to stretch a double into a triple – the 2-2 affair gave Bristol new life.
Unioville caused some mischief in the bottom of the sixth as Jack Roy drilled a one-out infield hit and later, LaPenta had Carney intentionally walk Siuta to get to Chirag Sikka.
With two outs on the board, Carney cut down Sikka via strikes as he posted his eighth K strikeout of the evening and kept things at 2-2 going into the top of the seventh.
In the fateful seventh frame, Finn came in to walk both Nocera and Martin as Bristol had two on with no outs.
LaPenta then laid down a sacrifice to the first base side of the plate and the fielder thought – for a split second – about getting the speedy Nocera at third base.
But the throw to first went wild as Nocera scored from third off the error and Post 2 was in charge for the first time at 3-2.
Post 32 took its stab at last inning heroics and put some pressure on Carney and the Bristol defense.
With one out, Rosetti scrambled for an infield hit and Meccariello unleashed a single to left to put the tying and go-ahead runners in place and on the bases.
But Carney got Colin Brantner to pop-out and Tyler Johnson ended the game by flying to right as Bristol held on to win the game by a 3-2 final.
“Especially when you get into these types of games, you’ve got to put pressure on the defense,” said LaPenta. “They make mistakes, the pressures on them. Unionville made mistakes and it cost them.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE