By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Bristol American Legion pitcher Jaeden Rasmus pretty much dominated a very talented Branford squad on Monday, June 27 from Muzzy Field during an exhibition outing.
So when Rasmus and company dropped Branford by a 7-0 push, it was quite a satisfying win for the locals.
Rasmus allowed just two hits over the complete game victory while zipping up eight strikeouts and walked just two as Post 2 (10-5) nabbed a big win over an outstanding opponent (11-2-2)
“Jaeden pitched awesome,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “He was pitching ahead. [Home plate umpire Scott Redman’s] zone was a little big but Jaeden still hit his spots. He hit the glove and when you have an umpire who gives a bigger zone, you have to take advantage of it and he did.”
Post 2 attacked Branford pitching with a nine-hit onslaught and after a six-run fifth frame, Bristol easily took control of the showdown.
Drew Owsianko led the charge with a 2-of-2 performance to go along with a run, a walk, and two RBI while Zach Marquis smoked out a two-RBI double to pace Bristol’s attack.
Noah Cruz chipped in with an RBI double; Nick Sassu also captured a two-base hit; while Cory Fradette, Brad Burney, Ricky Lemke, Ben Mazzone, and Rasmus all generated hits for the winners.
“We’ve been hitting okay but I think tonight might be a turning point,” said LaPenta. “Some guys are getting a little more relaxed. We had some good swings. And even when [Branford] brought in a kid that threw harder, I think the guys stepped up and hit the ball hard.”
And then defensively, Bristol was crisp behind the pitcher as Barney and Cruz made great catches in the outfield while Greg Lozier threw out a runner from behind the plate.
Those two hits by Branford were well placed but in the end, the tallies didn’t lead to any runs for the visiting contingent.
“I always tell them after the game, when there’s a zero up [on the scoreboard] for errors, you’ve always got a chance to win especially with the wood bat,” said LaPenta. “When we don’t give them extra outs, I think the guys are kind of buying into it [and] playing good defense. And we’ve got a few guys playing new spots, moving them around and stuff but it’s coming together.”
It was close throughout as Branford’s Ben Lacroix singled up the middle with two outs to open the game but Lozier made a great throw to second to end the inning when the runner tried to advance a base.
Then Troy Micale (two BB, sacrifice fly) walked on to start Bristol’s first and later stole second but could not advance – leaving the first frame a scoreless tie.
In the second, Branford’s Jordan Botte led things off with a single to center but three outs later, including a strikeout of Mike Heinz, Post 2 couldn’t respond even as Owsianko drew a two-out walk as the 0-0 push was the tally of the game.
Rasmus struck out the side in the third and when Sassu smoked a double to the gap in right, Bristol had another runner in scoring position.
But a 6-3 double-play ended the threat and going into the fourth, neither Bristol nor Branford had put any numbers on the board.
Branford ramped up two walks with one out in the fourth but the crafty Rasmus worked his way out of the jam, ending the fray with a strikeout before Post 2 looked to have something cooking.
Marquis walked to start the Bristol portion of the fourth but got caught stealing and when Burney snuck a single to center, the home team was back at it again.
Nothing came of it and quickly, the 0-0 stalemate moved into the fifth tilt.
Rasmus remained in control of the mound, once again striking out the side and Owsianko started a rally off in the bottom of the fifth with a blooper to left.
Then the Bristol pitcher dropped in a tough grounder to the Branford shortstop who had no play on the ball and with runners on first and second, Mazzone was ready for the challenge.
Mazzone dropped down a drag bunt that easily went for an infield hit to load things up.
Micale then sent a fly-ball into center and off the putout, Owsianko came home to make it a 1-0 contest.
Later on, Fradette was hit-by-pitch and with two on, Marquis sent a screamer to right-center – clearing the bases – as his double made it a 3-0 contest in Bristol’s favor.
Cruz then mirrored the Marquis at-bat, sending a two-base hit to right, and when Marquis came home, it was a 4-0 game.
Burney and Lozier each drew walks and with the bases loaded, Branford reliever Brandon Kilfeather was yanked in favor of Lacroix.
Owsianko, who started off the inning with a base hit, made it 2-for-2 in the stanza with a powerful double to left to plate two runners and by the completion of the fifth inning, the tie was no more and Bristol held a sizable 6-0 push.
In the bottom of the sixth, Micale earned a walk and Ricky Lemke slipped in a single to right as runners were quickly on the corners.
A wild pitch eventually plated Micale and going into the top of the seventh, it was a 7-0 game in Bristol’s favor.
And Rasmus closed it out – retiring the final 11 batters he faced – as Bristol went into the Avon game with plenty of momentum behind the 7-0 shutout victory over Branford.
“Huge, it’s a huge game,” said LaPenta about the game against Avon the following day. “I don’t think anyone is going to run away with the zone this year because everybody is kind of bunched up. Obviously, when you’re playing a team that’s a half-game ahead of you, it’s always a big game. Noah’s on the mound [pitching]. I’m expecting him to get his usual start and I’m expecting it to be a close game, low scoring game.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE