By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Eastern softball team turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead midway through the fifth inning of its city series showdown with Bristol Central, would the Rams be able to respond and retake the lead?
The answer was a resounding yes and in a big way.
Central roped up five runs in the bottom of the fifth frame as the Rams took the lead for good, defeating the Lancers by a 8-4 final from Bristol Central High School on Wednesday, May 6.
It was a huge victory for the Rams (8-4 overall, 6-2 CCC South) and the eight runs against Eastern (7-7, 6-2) was certainly an offensive explosion for Central.
“We haven’t had that in a lot of games this year,” said Central coach Monica Hayes of the offensive. “We finally broke out with a lot of runs and timely hits and we got help from the bottom and middle of the order. Offensively, it was collectively one of the better games we had all year long.”
“And they’re resilient…they keep coming back.”
It was needed as the Lancers trailed by two going into the fifth inning; but a three-pack of runs gave Eastern its only lead of the contest at 4-3.
But in the second half of the fifth frame, disaster struck the Lancers.
“We came back,” said Eastern coach Scott Redman. “We put them on their heels. [We then gave] a leadoff walk to Central’s leadoff hitter, top of the order. Sacrifice bunt, can’t get an out. That turns into four runs real quick when you’ve got the middle of their order up with two girls on.”
“We kind of gave them a couple extra outs in that inning and they surely capitalized.”
McKenna Driscoll led off the fifth with a base-on-balls; and when winning pitcher Ali Holden laid down a sacrifice bunt, she made it to first safely as no one in the infield made a play on the ball. Quickly, the Rams had two on with no outs.
And Allie Martel tied it up as her base hit to left plated Driscoll and quickly, it was a 4-4 affair with no one outs in the frame.
With one out gone, Lindsay Holden knocked in the hit of the afternoon.
Holden sent a deep ball to left field – clearing the bases – as her two RBI triple propelled Central to a 7-4 edge in the contest.
One batter later, Alexa Caron sacrificed Holden home. Quickly, that 8-4 cushion was too big a hump for Eastern to overcome.
“We’ve been down a lot in games this year,” said Hayes. “We were up and lost the lead today. It’s the first time we’ve done that and we came back again. They impress me. They’re resilient.”
“They didn’t stay down for long.”
The Rams tallied 11 hits in the game, led Martel’s 3-of-4 performance that included a two-out home run, two singles, and a total of three RBI.
Sam Laviero, Lindsey Holden, and Alyssa Pasniewski all smacked out triples while Caron went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored.
Central pitcher Ali Holden was outstanding and though she got roughed up in the fifth stanza, she never completely lost her composure.
She gave up just eight hits, while striking out four, and allowing just one free pass.
Eastern’s top four batters were a combined 2-of-15 against the chucker and that helped Central hold of pesky Eastern in the end.
“She’s getting better every day,” said Hayes of Ali Holden. “She’s shutting down some big time hitters.
Eastern’s offense had chances in several innings to tack on runs and did so in the second and during that fateful fifth tilt.
Makenzie Jankowski smoked a huge triple for a couple RBI while Jordan Fitzsimons also drilled a triple and also had an infield single to lead Eastern.
Shelby Sanstrom added two hits as well but the Lancers couldn’t gain any momentum off Central miscues while the Rams were able to.
“Good teams capitalize when you make mistakes,” said Redman. “Central surely did that. [Eastern pitcher Jenifer] Tabacco made a couple mistakes but I tell you what, I thought both pitchers pitched well. They located pitches today and we’re in this rut where we’re just not helping her defensively.”
Tabacco battled throughout, striking out three and walking only one in another solid outing.
She certainly kept the game within reach before things went a bit haywire in the fifth as a big error, that miscalculation on the bunt and general bad luck foiled the chucker.
“It wasn’t necessarily errors but it was just average to very below average defense today,” said Redman. “We didn’t help our pitcher out at all.”
Central struck first as Driscoll singled to get on, moved to second of a sacrifice bunt by Ali Holden and then scored when Laviero sent her three-base hit to deep center, giving the Rams a quick 1-0 edge.
But Eastern returned the favor in the top of the second.
Fitzsimons beat out an infield hit to short and Bailey Wyrebek bunted her to second.
With two outs, Nicole D’Amato slapped a base hit to center; and when Fitzsimons stepped on the plate, it was a 1-1 game.
In the third, Martel sent the ball into the outfield as Eastern fielders gave chase.
Martel rounded third and easily scored, and once again, Central nabbed the lead – this time at 2-1 after three completed frames.
“They were a lot of fly balls today,” said Redman of the game.
In the fourth, Caron beat out a base hit and with two outs, Pasniewski drilled her triple to left, scoring the lead runner, and the Rams held a 3-1 edge.
But the Lancers stormed right back, all off a two-out rally.
Michaela Sassu and Sanstrom nailed back-to-back singles and Jankowski drove in the pair off her three-base hit to left – tying the game at 3-3.
Veteran Charline Plasczyski then smoked a perfect single down the right field line and when Jankowski scored, Eastern surged in front by a 4-3 tally.
However, Central ended the contest with four straight runs and zipped up a huge 8-4 lead over the Lancers.
In the fifth for the Rams, Driscoll drew a walk and once Ali Holden beat out her sacrifice bunt turned base hit, it led to four quick runs for Central.
“We kind of expected the bunt out of the two-hole,” said Redman of the Holden sacrifice. “It was a good bunt, you’ve got to give her credit. It was a good bunt, well placed. We’ve got to make that play.”
“I thought there were two or three plays we should have made that inning.”
But once those runs were tallied, the Lancers never recovered offensively as Central rolled up an impressive four-run win over Eastern.
“It always an exciting game,” said Hayes. “It doesn’t matter what the records are [in a Central-Eastern game]. It’s always a big game on the schedule for anybody that goes to Central or Eastern. It’s fun. All of our games have been like this so I think we were prepared to play and up and down game.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE