By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – All the Bristol Legion baseball team has to do is hit the ball.
That’s because its defense and pitching is always there but once those bats starting coming alive for Post 2, good things always seem to happen.
The squad from Pittsfield, Mass. learned that fact and quickly fell behind against Bristol on Friday, Aug. 7.
Post 2 notched four runs in a blazing seventh inning of play, watched it completely evaporate as Pittsfield matched that total to tie it up at 5-5 before Bristol notched two in the ninth to wrap up a 7-5 victory from Muzzy Field in Bristol, staying alive in the Northeast Regional Tournament.
Notching just six previous hits over the first two games of the fray combined, Post 2 exploded for nine hits and when offense was needed, Post 2 delivered.
“We got some hits today,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “You know what, the guys stepped up. When we took that 5-2 lead, and [starting pitcher] Jerry [LaPenta] kind of ran out of gas there, they came back and tied it and we could have easily popped our balloon there and just rolled over and died.”
“But Jaeden [Rasmus] got a huge hit.”
Rasmus, in fact, hit two huge doubles in game play, going 2-of-4 overall with two runs scored and three RBI.
His two base blast to left field in the bottom of the ninth proved to be the game winning hit of the event.
“He went back to wood,” said LaPenta of Rasmus. “He hit great with wood, he didn’t with aluminum. He just didn’t have the feel for it. So I told him he’s probably not going to use aluminum in high school either next year…he should stay with the wood.”
Ricky Lemke went 2-of-4 with an RBI and two runs scored; big Chadd Richardson also wrapped up two hits and scored twice; while Jalen Benoit, Troy Micale, and LaPenta all angled up hits in the winning effort.
Bristol was the away team in the contest as Pittsfield won the coin toss and earned the right to be the home squad of the affair.
Micale could care less as he slapped a single up the middle with one out gone in the first inning. But two fly ball outs later, the Massachusetts squad came up for its first at-bats.
In the second, Pittsfield went to work offensively.
Dom Traversa singled to left to start the frame, stole second, and went to third base when a pickoff attempt by LaPenta was chucked into centerfield.
It appeared as the gaff would be for naught as the next two batters grounded out with Traversa stuck on third.
But Kevin Squires dropped in a ball that was just inside the right field line – legging out a triple – as Travesa scored to make it a 1-0 contest after two completed frames.
And then with the Bristol bats silent in the third, Pittsfield went right back to work.
Chad Shade singled to center, swiped second and moved to third when Kevin Donati dropped a base hit into left – putting runners on the corners.
Donati quickly stole second to put two runners in scoring position with just one out gone in the frame.
But Bristol made up for it when Benoit ran back to snatch a Anthony Jones fly-ball from landing in cleanly and quickly – with coach LaPenta instructing his outfielder to get ball to third base – got out number three at the bag when Donati left early in what should have easily been a sacrifice fly that would have given Massachusetts a 2-0 edge.
In the end, the game remained a 1-0 affair after three completed frames.
Post 2 didn’t give its defense much of a break in the fourth and went down in order quickly and Pittsfield was right back at it from the plate.
Mitch Cleay drilled a two-out single down the left field line but Squires grounded out to Micale at short and the deficit for Bristol remained a reasonable one run.
And then, Bristol finally woke up offensively.
With one gone in the fray, Richardson unleashed a stinging double to left while Benoit slipped a single just passed the dirt in short right field.
There were runners on the corners when Lemke fired a screamer to third base that was too hot to stop, plating Richardson, as the game was quickly tied at 1-1.
Rasums was up with runners on first and second but bounced into a 6-3 double play.
However, the damage was done and the contest was all knotted up at 1-1.
Pittsfield went down in order to close out the sixth but in the seventh, Post 2 loaded the bases with just one out.
Richardson singled, Benoit walked and Lemke flipped out a base hit to juice the bases.
And then, Rasmus unleashed a double to center – scoring both Richardson and Benoit to make it a 3-1 game.
LaPenta followed with a flare to left, scoring Lemke – who nicely eluded the tag at home plate – and then Micale dropped a sacrifice fly into left and when Rasmus scored the final run of the frame – Bristol’s edge reached 5-1 midway through the seventh.
But Pittsfield refused to yield as Clary singled up the middle and Squires walked to open their portion of the seventh and the tying run was in the on deck circle.
Shade flipped out an RBI single into center and when he stole second, two runners were in scoring position with one out.
“I thought Pittsfield was the best hitting team we faced all year,” said LaPenta. “They were some big guys that took some swings. There were some college kids and some older kids. That was by far the best hitting team we’ve seen all year.”
Carusotto then represented the tying run in the batters box and he drew a full count before his RBI groundout plated Squires to make it a 5-3 game.
Donati earned a walk and with runners on first and third, Pittsfield had the ability to tie or take the lead.
And Jones knotted it up as his long double to left scored two and off the hit, the game was tied up at 5-5 and LaPenta was done for the day.
“I was happy with the job Jerry did,” said LaPenta of his son. “He was throwing strikes. We were in the game. It was 1-0 and 1-1 for a long time there so we got seven innings out of him. I was happy.”
St. Paul’s Wes Lahey moved on to pitch and generated the final out of the inning but it was a brand new game at 5-5.
Then, Post 2 made its stab at the lead in the top of the ninth and final frame.
Lemke reached base via error and Rasmus smashed a double to left-center and the lead runner was looking to score after rounding third base.
The throw in was on the money to nab Lemke but the catcher couldn’t grasp the ball as Bristol went in front 6-5.
And then Lahey, forced to bat in the leadoff position, dropped in a safety squeeze and Rasmus was quickly charging home.
But the catcher bungled the ball again and when Rasmus scored off the miscue, Post 2’s edge reached 7-5.
“I left him in because we were kind of short on pitching,” said LaPenta of Lahey. “That was his first at-bat all year and I told him ‘hey, it was three safety squeezes in a row brother.’ And the first pitch, he got it down, put the pressure on the defense and what can you say?”
“[In terms of pitching], It was a big spot for a young guy to come in and pick up the win, threw strikes…it was awesome.”
Suddenly, Pittsfield was down to its final three at-bats of the campaign and trailing by two.
But Burney made a hit-saving catch in right to close out the game and Bristol impressively advanced in the tournament with a two run win, 7-5.
“We’ve got another day,” said LaPenta. “After today, there’s only going to be 32 teams left in the whole country. So hey, we can say we’re one of them too.”
NOTES…On Saturday, Aug. 8, Bristol defeated CT state champion RCP by a 3-2 final and advanced to “Championship Sunday”…On Championship Sunday, Bristol defeated Cumberland 9-8 in 12 innings to advance to the finals…And in the Northeast Regional Final – an all Connecticut final – Post 2 fell to RCP, 5-0 as the Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Portland grouping is headed to the World Series in Shelby, North Carolina…The Bristol Observer will have stories for both the RCP games and the Cumberland, Rhode Island contest in next week’s edition.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE