By MICHAEL LETENDRE
AVON – When Bristol American Legion pitcher Jerry LaPenta is firing on all cylinders, he’s one tough righty to contend with.
And on Wednesday, June 17, the undefeated squad from Avon had absolutely no answer for LaPenta at the plate, generating just two hits, as the veteran buried the division leader – smashing the squad by a 5-0 final from Avon Old Farms.
The win raised Bristol’s overall record to 4-3 and 4-1 in Zone 1 play, half a game in back of surprising Terryville (5-1).
In the defeat, Avon lost for the first time this season and fell to 4-1.
LaPenta challenged each and every hitter, not allowing a single walk as only one batter saw a three-ball count all game long.
He struck out five and didn’t allow a runner to reach base until the fourth frame of plate.
“He’s just kind of getting that senior swagger going on,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta of his ace pitcher. “He’s got really good command. He’s coming off a good high school season… some of the stuff in high school, he got a few bloopers here and there and they kind of got away from him. He pitched well but I think he’s really starting to come into his own a little bit. He’s starting to mature and he’s starting to throw the ball a little harder and he had command of his breaking pitches.”
“That’s two really good outings in a row.”
LaPenta only threw 75 pitches and he faced the minimum batters through 7.2 innings before Avon attempted an unsuccessful rally.
But by the time Ben Suski stroked a base hit to right and Jeremy Zarwenski was plunked by a pitch to get onboard, it was too late as Matt Wilkinson popped out to second to end the game with Post 2 ahead by five runs.
In fact, it was a two pronged attack as LaPenta shutdown the Avon offense while the Bristol had its best night at the plate this season.
The team generated a season best nine hits and everyone besides Ricky Lemke – who in all fairness was robbed of a hit by in the sixth – and Nick Sassu, who put the ball into play several times, came away with hits – especially later in the showdown.
“We had some innings there that we got some hits,” said LaPenta.
Jaeden Rasmus zipped out two singles and scored a run while former Bristol Central standout Kyle Pileski truly was the offensive leader of the contest.
He went 2-of-4 with a double, triple, a run scored, and two RBI in a very impressive display.
With the game a scoreless affair and two runners on, Pileski notched the winning tally of the contest by belting a two-base hit to centerfield as Sassu and Jake Hall (walk, single, sacrifice fly) scored, which made it a 2-0 game and Avon was quickly down and out.
“In the first few games, he was just putting a lot of pressure on himself, just trying to be the guy instead of letting his ability do the work,” said LaPenta of Pileski. “I think once he relaxes, he’s got the ability to just let it happen.”
“Today, he got a couple big clutch hits for us.”
Both teams did not have a runner reach base until the fifth inning when Rasmus drilled a single to left before getting tagged out at second trying to swipe the base.
Wilkinson smacked a one-out base hit in the bottom of the fifth stanza for Avon but Matt Boone struck out and Sassu threw out the base runner at second to end the frame as Post 2 went on to score three runs in the top of the sixth.
With Bristol ahead by two runs, Brad Burney singled home Pileski. Halfway through the sixth, Post 2 led by a 3-0 push.
After Avon was retired in order in the sixth, Bristol notched another two runs to make it a 5-0 game.
Rasums drew a single to get onboard. Sassu walked and from there, Zach Marquis smacked an RBI base hit and to end the scoring, Hall flew out to right – plating Sassu – as Post 2 led the contest by a 5-0 margin.
“They made really good adjustments (at the plate),” said LaPenta of his team. “The kid (Avon pitcher Will Boone), he wasn’t throwing hard, but he was pounding the zone. His breaking ball, he was kind of pitching backwards (with) breaking balls and fastballs counts, and sneaking, and I think it was really kind of our third time around that we made the adjustments.”
“We didn’t really try to do too much, just put the bat on the ball, and just got some hits.”
To finish on the mound, LaPenta generated two quick outs before running into a little tomfoolery with two outs on the board
However, it made no difference as LaPenta generated one final out and Post 2 rang up a 5-0 win on the road.
“He threw a great game,” said LaPenta of LaPenta. “I was really pleased.”
Beating Avon is a big deal as Bristol had a bit of trouble tackling the division leader over the past two years.
However, the 5-0 win over the squad goes a long way for the locals.
“Last year, Avon beat us all three times,” said LaPenta. “I think two of the three games we could have won and we just let it get away. Wins like this go a long way for team character and swagger, which is really important.”
The rest of the week…On Friday, June 19, Bristol dropped a tough 7-1 decision to powerful Simsbury from Memorial Field. Post was out-hit 11-6. Wes Lahey pitched well in defeat, yielding just two runs over his first four innings of work but still absorbed a tough loss. Then on Saturday, June 20, Jaeden Rasmus and Troy Micale combined to throw a two-hitter as Bristol slammed Berlin 4-0 from Sage Park. Rasmus earned the win while Micale zipped up the save in the winning effort.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE