By MICHAEL LETENDRE
NEW BRITAIN – The only ways teams of the Connecticut Twilight League have been able to hang losses on the first place Bristol Knights squad have been through late game heroics and nail-biting finishes.
And that’s exactly what happened in the opening game of the CTL Summer Classic on Saturday, July 16 as the Glastonbury Pirates – wasting all of a 3-0 edge – managed to turn a late one-run deficit into a 6-5 come-from-behind victory from the baseball field at Central Connecticut State University.
Bristol (18-4) allowed Glastonbury (8-10-1) a three-run cushion after one inning of play and the Knights were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
“The first inning killed us,” said Bristol Knights coach and catcher Eddie Dickman. “[There] was a leadoff walk. We definitely had a rough first inning and it cost us. Three runs in the first inning, that was basically the game right there.”
Dickman had a hit and scored a run, Marco Ross added two singles, Kyle Lentini smashed out a hit, nabbed a run and earned an RBI while Brian LaRochelle went 1-for-3 with a single and an RBI.
Earl Oakes cashed in on two RBI; Phil Rothkugel went a slick 2-of-3; Tyler Favreau earned a hit; Julio Ortiz-Rivera added a critical RBI single in the seventh inning while Scott Dickens was 1-of-3 to eventually help the Knights grab the lead during the back-and-forth affair.
“Everyone hit today,” said Dickman. “We came back. I think just about everyone in the line-up got a hit today.”
Stevie Kelly led the Pirates with a 2-for-4 performance that included two RBI while winning pitcher Matt Spencer also was 2-for-4 and had the game winning hit – placing a single to center to net two RBI.
Lentini went five innings for Bristol, giving up three runs off eight hits in five innings of work while Nick Dzioba allowed three runs in his two frames of relief, drawing a tough loss.
The Knights went down in order to start the game but in the bottom of the first, Glastonbury struck for three runs.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases and from there, a two-RBI base hit to left from Kelly plated two runs as Glastonbury nabbed a quick 2-0 edge.
A RBI groundout scored another run and when Spencer made the final out of the frame, it was a 3-0 contest in the Pirates’ favor.
But the Knights looked to get back into during the top of the second as Lintini drilled an infield hit that was eventually thrown away – allowing the runner to reach second base off the error.
LaRochelle’s grounder advanced Lintini to third and a RBI groundout by Oakes scored the runner as Bristol chopped the deficit to 3-1.
Phil Rothkugel then hustled a single that managed to drop in center to get another runner on and when Tyler Favreau struck out, Glastonbury’s lead remained at 3-1.
In the top of the second, the Pirates looked to pad its lead as a batter was plunked by a pitch and when a single just fell in front of Steve Clout in center, the squad had runners on first and second.
But Lintini settled down, generating a strikeout and when Kelly flew out to center, the inning was over and the Knights still trailed by just two runs.
“He was definitely hitting his pitches from the second inning on,” said Dickman of Lentini.
With one out in the top of the third, Dickens slapped a single to left to get on base and quickly, the Knights had the tying run at the plate.
But Clout popped out to third and Dickman grounded to short as Spencer ended the threat and Glastonbury had its 3-1 lead intact.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Glastonbury Tim Phillips smacked a double to the gap in right to get onboard.
He tried to score late in the stanza but the combination of Clout and Dickman did not allow the fourth run to come to pass.
Clout robbed Spencer of an RBI when he lofted a base hit to center and the runner from second was sprinting home.
Chasing the ball down, Clout threw a rocket to Dickman who made the catch and then slapped a tag on the runner as he crashed into the plate.
The putout ended the third and going into the fourth, errors helped Bristol put a couple runners on base.
Marco Ross singled to open the frame and when Lentini’s grounder was misplayed by Spencer just off the mound, the Knights had two runners on with no one out.
LaRochelle bounced a grounder to second but the double play was foiled when the catch at first base could not be made.
From there, Oakes sent a fly-ball to center for an out but Ross came home as the sacrifice fly trimmed the deficit down to one at 3-2.
And then Rothkugel jammed a double to the gap in left and LaRochelle was looking to score from first but the throw in from the outfield and the tag by the catcher was in time to nab him at the plate as the third out ended the inning with Bristol still trailing by a run.
It was a 1-2-3 inning for the Pirates in the bottom of the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Bristol looked to take its first lead of the showdown.
Favreau opened the fifth with a single to center and Julio Ortiz Rivera attempted to bunt the lead runner over early but instead, drew a full count and grounded into a 1-6-3 double play to put two outs on the board, eventually ending the threat.
The Pirates couldn’t tie it up and in the bottom of the tilt as Kelly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
But two hits later, Glastonbury had runners on first and second.
Lentini then struck out his second batter of the game and going into the sixth inning, the Knights had the top of its order up.
With one out in the sixth, Dickman put a base hit by the first baseman. When Ross flipped in a single to center, the lead runner made it safely to third and the Knights had runners on the corners.
The tying run was on third base and an RBI groundout plated Dickman to make it a brand new game at 3-3.
And LaRochelle came through with a huge RBI single to right as Bristol surged in front by a 4-3 push.
Nick Dzioba came in for Lenten on the mound in the bottom of the sixth and with two outs and a runner on third, Glastonbury snuck out a base hit to short center.
The runner came home, appeared to be tagged out by Dickman at the plate but was called safe – making it a 4-4 contest heading into the seventh stanza.
“There were a couple unfortunate incidents,” said Dickman. “I definitely tagged him at home [but] we didn’t get the call we wanted. It’s baseball. Sometimes it works for us, sometimes it doesn’t. Today, it was one of those days.”
In the top of the seventh, Bristol’s Matt Schweighardt walked with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch to get into scoring position.
Ortiz Rivera came through with a single to left as the runner scored to put the Knights back on top, 5-4.
Ortiz Rivera then stole a couple of bases, Clout walked to put runners on first and third. But when Dickman hit a chopper to first for the third out, Glastonbury was down to its final three outs of the showdown.
Kelly open things up with his second hit of the game, a single to left, and the go-ahead run was at the plate.
A sac bunt put Kelly into scoring position but an error put another runner on first but no one could advance.
A fly-out put the lead runner at third with two outs and it was up to Spencer to win his own game.