By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Smart teams find ways to win games. At the scholastic level, that statement is as true as it can get for the baseball squad from Bristol Eastern.
While the Lancers aren’t generating staggering hitting totals, the team is the ultimate advantage taker in terms of stealing the extra base, making the opponents pay for miscues and gaffs, and generally making opponents lives at the plate pretty darn miserable.
In the end, that type of play is generating victory after victory for Eastern and after the Lancers defeated Plainville 6-1 – in a CCC South showdown from Muzzy Field on Wednesday, May 13 – that winning streak had reached nine games.
The Lancers moved to 12-3 overall with the win and remain two games ahead of every challenger in the race for the race for the CCC South at 9-1.
Eastern scored two quick runs to crack open the game and then watched pitcher Tom Curtin masterfully shutdown the Blue Devils – allowing the visitors just one hit overall, an infield tally to shortstop by John Lindgren, and posted eight strikeouts in one heck of a complete game effort.
Only three Plainville balls were recorded for outs in the outfield as Curtin pretty much shutdown batters at the plate and produced mostly ground-ball outs when he wasn’t ringing people up.
“That’s easily the best performance of his career,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo of Curtin’s performance. “If we didn’t have those couple hiccups in the middle innings, he should have had a shutout.”
“Plainville rallied…they got a run [but] Curtin made them stand up.”
On the other side, losing pitcher Mike Munson did a great job battling the elements as well, striking out seven and had his pitches working.
In fact, after the Lancers wrangled up that quick 2-0 push to open the first inning, off the power of two hits and a walk, Eastern’s offense did not generate another hit until the sixth inning – after Munson had left the game as reliever Rob Pezzulo came in to start the sixth.
“Mike pitched great,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville of Munson. “He had his moments where he threw some balls, couldn’t find the strike zone but he showed some guts today….He had a never give up attitude and just because he had guys on base, he wouldn’t fold and that’s what you want.”
An error led to an Eastern run in the bottom of the fifth while in the sixth, the Lancers plated three insurance runs to make it a 6-1 contest.
But it took a while to get there as Plainville – and Munson – proved to be tricky to sort out in the field.
Eastern attacked off the first at-bat and nabbed a two-run cushion.
The Lancers’ first three batters reached base and quickly, the home team pushed ahead in the fray.
Jake Colello (2-for-3, triple, RBI) singled to right to get on and Joe Lowery (two walks) drew a base-on-balls, each advancing a base via a wild pitch.
With runners on second and third, Zach Marquis dropped a base hit into left – scoring the lead runner – as Colello tagged the plate and made it a 1-0 contest.
And off a second wild pitch, Lowery sprinted home for Eastern’s second run as the Lancers went in front 2-0.
But Munson struck out the next three batters he faced and did not allow another run until the bottom of the fifth inning.
“I thought Munson had real good stuff,” said Giovinazzo. “But [the defense] stumbled a little behind him, had a couple walks, a couple wild pitches here and there, but that was a very credible performance.”
Curtin cruised right into the third stanza before Plainville cut the deficit in half off a heady hit from John Lindgren.
Buzz Adams started the rally off with a walk and found himself on second base off a Pezzulo ground-ball out.
With two outs, Brett Snowden sent a ball to shortstop but off a bad throw, the Plainville runner made it to first safely and the visitors had men on the corners and the go-ahead run at the plate.
And then John Lindgren smacked a tough grounder to third and the race was on.
The speedster made a slick slide into first – arriving safely – as Adams scored to make it a 2-1 game two-and-a-half innings into things.
That 2-1 score carried over into the fifth when Eastern zipped up another run to make it a two-run contest again.
Nate Hickey drew a walk; Austin Dias reached on an error; and when Colello was sent to first via a base-on-balls, the bases were juiced with no outs.
But Munson was tough, striking out the next two batters, and almost worked out of the jam.
However, Roche sent a ball to second that was misplayed, scoring Hickey from third, as Eastern went ahead by a two run push, 3-1.
Curtin continued to cruise along and in the bottom of the sixth, the Lancers added three insurance tallies.
With one out, Jacob Dubrosky smacked a double to the gap in left as Eastern was quickly in business.
Hickey added a single to right, stole second, and when another Dias offering was bobbled and misplayed, two runs scored to make it a 5-1 contest.
From there, Colello drove a ball deep to right, scoring Dias, and when his triple was tallied, the Lancers were in charge by a 6-1 push after six completed frames.
“You know something, the bottom of the order has been very good at getting on and setting things up for them,” said Giovinazzo of Hickey and Dias. “Hickey and Austin are on base a lot. And you see the result when those guys [Colello and Lowery] get a chance to hit with men on.”
The Blue Devils couldn’t respond in the seventh and final frame and when pinch-hitter Jon Olson struck out – giving Curtin his eighth strikeout of the game and sending the Lancers to a big 6-1 victory.
“You’ve got to give him credit, he pitched well,” said Mandeville of Curtin. “He attacked the strike zone. His slider was phenomenal today. And he threw strikes. We wanted to make him throw some pitches and see where it would go and he threw strikes.”
“And when you throw strikes, good things are going to happen.”
In the end, the five-run victory propelled the Lancers to win number nine in a row and the squad has a serious chance to win-out to finish the regular season.
“It’s a veteran team, they’re taking advantage of mistakes, and they are playing about as good as I can expect,” said Giovinazzo of his squad.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE