By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MIDDLETOWN – The fourth ranked East Lyme baseball squad drilled top seeded Bristol Eastern like no other team did during its semifinal Class L showdown from Palmer Field in Middletown on Tuesday, June 7.
And off the power of a 15-2 win over the Lancers, the Wildcats moved on to the championship showcase this past weekend against No. 11 Notre Dame-West Haven while Eastern finished the year out an impressive 21-3.
East Lyme’s Matt Spang did the job at the plate, both on offense and defense, and in terms of pitching, his 10 strikeouts fueled his complete game effort.
On offense, Spang went four-of-five with three RBI and three runs scored while the squad rang up 17 total hits.
Eastern managed just eight hits in the game, made six errors in the field and that led to several more outs for the Wildcats to work with.
“We just got beat in every phase of the game, let’s face it,” said Bristol Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “Our defense, right from the beginning, set a poor tone. We didn’t make plays early in the game. They took advantage of everything too.”
“It wasn’t just our mistakes. [East Lyme] just swung the bats. That was good a hitting team as we’ve seen all year.”
Spang was dominant, striking out the side in the sixth and allowing just four hits over the first four innings of action.
He allowed just one base-on-balls, during the seventh tilt, and helped his team pile up a 12-0 edge before the Lancers had a chance to get something generated at the plate.
“He certainly wasn’t overpowering but, you know, he got his curve-ball over,” said Giovinazzo of Spang. “When you get your curve ball over, it makes your fast-ball look better. He mixed his pitches very effectively and obviously, as long as he stayed in, you could tell he was a real competitive kid and he did a great job.”
Eastern’s Tyler Troth lasted just 1.1 innings in the hill, allowing seven hits and six runs while striking out one over his first loss of the campaign (8-1).
From there, the Lancers used four different pitchers to attempt to stop the bleeding but Lyme just continued to ramp up the pressure at the plate and kept the runs flowing.
Eastern’s Nate Hickey added a hit and a walk while Adrian James added an RBI single in the losing effort.
Jake Violate earned a hit, as did Nate Carney, while Evan McGinley doubled to lead the Lancers’ offense.
Brian McPhee and MacGregor Goulet added singles while Greg Lozier smashed out a sacrifice fly to notch Eastern’s second run of the contest.
Troth gave up five runs before Eastern could record a single out as errors and mental mistakes led to a havoc filled opening stanza.
After three straight hits loaded the bases, Bennett Coe sent a ball to left field for a base hit.
But the ball got by Marquis – emptying the bases – as Lyme nabbed a 3-0 push.
Miles Coe reached base when his grounder was nabbed at short, thrown over to third but was chucked towards the Eastern dugout – as Bennett Coe scored to make it a 4-0 contest.
Matt Malcolm then drilled an RBI double to deep left as one final runner crossed the plate as Lyme grabbed a huge 5-0 lead.
And then in the top of the second, East Lyme was back at it.
Spang led off with a double and with one out, Matt Abbey dropped a base hit into left and when the ball was accidentally thrown home, Abbey took second to put two in scoring position.
And when Miles Cole drew ball four, a wild pitch scored Spang and East Lyme’s edge grew to 6-0.
Troth’s evening was done and Carney came in to attempt to take command of the game.
Inducing a 4-6-3 double play, Carney and Eastern got out of the inning but the Lancers were trailing by an imposing 6-0 push through an inning-and-a-half.
Eastern finally generated a couple hits with one out gone in the second frame as Violette and Carney flipped out back-to-back singles and Eastern was threatening.
But Spang got a fly-ball and ground-ball out and going into the top of the third, East Lyme still managed to hold its 6-0 edge.
Spang smacked an RBI single to tally the games seventh run but a catcher’s interference loaded the bases up.
And when Abbey legged out an infield hit, as Carney was trying to cover first base with two outs, the ball was misplayed and scooted towards the fence – allowing two additional runners to score – and suddenly, the Vikings’ cushion grew to 9-0.
But the Lancers were looking to respond in the bottom of the tilt.
McPhee singled to center and then with one gone in the frame, Lozier legged out an infield hit and when the ball was thrown away, he went to second and runners were on second and third.
However, Marquis drew strike three and the game remained a 9-0 affair.
Lyme added three in the fourth, two coming from the bat of Spang as he pounded a two-RBI single to center – to make it a 12-0 contest.
Gary Gagnier then came in and stabilized the contest on the mound, getting a 8-6-3 double play to end the fifth but the deficit remained a dozen.
“Each one of the pitchers, I went out there and said ‘Listen, your job is to throw strikes,’” said Giovinazzo to his pitching staff. “The fielders, they’ll back you up. That’s not your problem so your job is to throw strikes and we also struggled with that. We threw a lot of balls in the dirt, we walked a ton of guys. Our pitching, it was not good tonight. Let’s face it, our defense and our pitching set a tone for the whole night.”
Eastern finally dropped a run on the Vikings in the bottom of the fifth, started by a double by McGinley to the gap in center.
Hickey followed with a single to left and Lozier unleashed a sac fly to right – plating McGinley – as Lyme continued to lead, 12-1.
The Vikings added two additional runs in the sixth before Ethan O’Day came in to pitch but he also threw a pitch in the dirt, allowing a run to score as the Vikings grew the lead out to 15-1.
Eastern notched one final run in the top of the seventh as Goulet blasted out a single to left, Hickey drew a two-out walk and Lozier reached via error to load up the bases with two outs on the board.
From there, James dropped in a bloop hit for the squad’s second run but off one final strikeout by Spang, East Lyme punched its ticket to the championship and a contest against Notre Dame-West Haven.
“I’m pretty shocked to be honest with you,” said Giovinazzo of the outcome. “We’ve had great leadership, we’ve had great focus all year. To come out in a game of this magnitude and be as sloppy and as unfocused as we were, I’m kind of a little shocked to be honest with you.”