By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SIMBURY – The Bristol Legion baseball team was two hits away from taking a tournament game against Simsbury that would have forced a third and deciding game against the Zone 1 foe.
Bristol’s Brad Burney got one such hit in the seventh inning but the follow up blast never followed as Post 84 advanced in the state tournament fray by a 5-3 final from Memorial Field in Simsbury on Thursday, July 23.
Post 84 (23-3) advanced in the tourney while Bristol ended the season at 26-11 but will take part of the Eastern Regional from Aug. 5-9.
Post 2 could have broken the game open in the second tilt with the bases loaded but a double play ended the stanza. While in the seventh, the situation came to pass again but Bristol simply could not get over the hump to tie the game.
“We had the bases loaded there twice with one out,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “Then we had second and third with one out again and we had chances to win the game, no doubt.”
Bristol pitching made a game of it and starter Jerry LaPenta did more than hold his own.
LaPenta lasted 6.1 innings and gave up just four runs – three earned – on six hits, two walks while striking out two, absorbing the loss.
Burney came in to throw for LaPenta and hung in there for 2.1 innings, giving up just one run.
“Our pitching, you know, did a good enough job to keep us in the game,” said LaPenta. “We just didn’t get a clutch hit.”
Jalen Benoit went 2-of-3 with an RBI and a run scored, Kyle Pileski went 2-of-4 with a run scored while Troy Micale, Jaeden Rasmus, Jake Hall (2-for-4), Ricky Lemke, big Chadd Richardson, Nick Sassu, and Burney all generated hits for the Bristol outfit.
Post 84 collected eight total hits and the duo of Jake King and Jack Patrina did the most damage with four combined hits, four stolen bases, three runs, and two RBI.
Simsbury, the visiting team during this game in best of three series, scored twice in the top of the first and put the ‘home’ team in a hole in a hurry.
King singled up the middle and later stole second to get into scoring position while Patrina followed with a sacrifice bunt that was thrown away – plating King – as Post 84 went ahead by a 1-0 push.
One batter later, Jack Lavinge’s grounder at short was bobbled; but Patrina was scoring off the hit anyway as Simsbury rode up a 2-0 lead a half inning into the affair.
But Bristol was right back into it, loading up the bases in the bottom of the first before a little deja vu sank Post 2.
A big double play early in the first game did-in Bristol the previous day and history was quickly repeated.
With one out, Rasmus dropped in a single to left, Hall beat out an infield hit to third and Burney walked to load things up.
But Pileski hit into a 4-3 double play and the inning was dashed with Simsbury still leading by two runs.
“With the bases loaded, that hurt,” said Lapenta of the double play ball. “If we could have gotten one [run] there, we could have gotten back. We just could just never seem to tie it up. I think if could have tied it up, we would have won.”
Post 84 bats were silent in the second and once again, Bristol juiced the bases with one out on the board.
Benoit, Lemke and Sassu all generated base hits and the pressure was on Gill at the mound with Micale at the plate.
But Post 2 got one of those runners to score as the Simsbury catcher tried to get Benoit at third – chucking the ball into the outfield – as he slipped across home plate to cut the deficit to 2-1 after two completed frames.
Simsbury responded in the top of the third, getting a single from Patrina, and base-on-balls by Lavigne and Gathers to load up the bases.
Amato came through with a fielder’s choice to plate Patrina but Bristol got Lavigne attempting a double steal and midway through the tilt, Simsbury had increased its advantage to 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Post 2 got one run back.
With two outs, Pileski and Richardson erected back-to-back hits and the duo advanced on a wild pitch.
Benoit then sent a hot shot to third, Pileski sprinted home to score, and the Simbury advantage was trimmed to 3-2.
Between the fourth and fifth innings, Gill steadied himself quite nicely, collecting four strike outs to keep that slim 3-2 edge intact through five.
But LaPenta was just as sharp, retiring 10 of 11 batters into the seventh inning but was already at the 100 pitch barrier and Burney was waiting in the wings to throw.
Post 2 went to tie it up in the bottom of the sixth as Pileski sent a single to left and Benoit was hit-by-pitch to put two on with one out.
But Lemke flew out to right as did Sassu off a pretty good shot to the outfield and Simsbury was hanging on for dear life.
Reilly finally got to LaPenta with one out gone in the seventh and once Jack Nedorostek drilled a base hit to right off a failed hit and run attempt – with the lead runner stranded on second instead of getting to third – LaPenta’s night over on the mound.
Burney came in to battle Simsbury but with King at the plate, an interference call on Sassu behind the plate allowed the bases to be loaded up.
Patrina then dropped in a suicide squeeze and Reilly easily squirted home from third and quickly, Post 84’s lead was stretched to 4-2.
However, Bristol was looking to get back in it and once Micale singled, Rasmus reached on a fielder’s choice and Hall beat out an infield hit to second, there was one out and the go-ahead run was at home plate.
And Burney, who was due for a big hit, slammed a ball nearly to the right field fence as Rasmus crossed the plate and the deficit was cut to 4-3 with runners still on second and third with one out.
Jake Nicholas came into pitch for Simsbury but LaPenta greeted him by earning a walk and, once again, the bases were juiced.
Credit belonged to Benoit as he battled and battled at the plate but ended up popping out behind second base and Simsbury was hanging on for dear life at 4-3 after seven completed innings.
In the eighth, Amato single to right with out but Cassano lined out to right. Quickly, LaPenta threw the ball to Hall at first base to get the double play and Bristol was still in it.
In the ninth, Nedorostek earned a two out walk and sprinted to third when a pickoff attempt was bobbled and the ball rolled to the fence.
And from there, King plated Nedorostek on a single to center and Post 84 increased its push to big 5-3 tally.
But Post 84 left the bases loaded to close the inning and down to its final three outs, Bristol would be battling Nicholas and he would be squaring off against the meat of Bristol’s order.
Post 2 went for broke and when Burney reached on a walk, Bristol had something going with one out.
But another dastardly double play ended the showdown as Simsbury earned the sweep and moved on to Rotary Field in South Windsor with the 5-3 win over Bristol.
“I was happy with the way the kids played,” said LaPenta. “They played hard. It’s just baseball. Sometimes you don’t get the big hit that you need.”
But Bristol pulled its get out of jail free card after the game as Post 2 will make up one of the eight teams at the American Legion Eastern Regional tournament from Muzzy Field.
“I told the kids [after the game], we live in a great town that gets to host the regional and our season continues,” said LaPenta.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE