By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The run for the Bristol American Legion baseball squad finally ended in the Northeast Regional tournament on Friday, Aug. 5 as Post 2 fell to Rochester, New Hampshire 9-4 as the unit lost for the second time in the double elimination tournament.
Bristol went 1-2 in 2016 Northeast Regional play but had a spirited adventure against Rochester, battling knuckleballer Christian Dow and making a real game of it before finally falling midway through the affair.
Dow retired nine straight batters midway through the contest that was certainly hanging in the balance for both squads.
Overall, Dow went the distance in his nine-hit, four-run, five strikeout performance as he seemed stronger as the game went on – not allowing a run after the third inning of play to cross the plate.
Wes Lahey (3 IP, 4 ER, 1 K) drew a tough loss for Bristol while Troy Micale (4 IP, 11 hits, 2K’s) and Ricky Lemke (1 IP, 0 hits) all gave something to the team on the mound.
The team’s combined for 28 hits as Bristol generated nine of those in the losing effort.
Bristol fought to the end as Zach Marquis (2-for-3, two runs), “Big’ Chadd Richardson (2-for-4, run, RBI) and Cory Fradette (2-for-4, two RBI) all had multiple hits for the home squad.
Rochester rocked up 19 hits as Rick Creteau (4-of-6, two runs, four RBI), McCormick Struthers (3-of-5, three runs), Ben Gravel (3-for-3, four runs), Dow (3-of-5, run, three RBI), Anthony DiPrizio (2-of-4, three runs, RBI) and Justin Jewell (2-for-5, three RBI) were all standouts for New Hampshire.
“I think that in two years of the tournament, that was the best-hitting team we’ve seen,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “Even when they had two strikes and we made some good pitches, they just stuck the bat out and put the ball in play and shot them down the lines. You have to take your hat off to them.”
“They hit the ball hard.”
It all started early for New Hampshire as Creteau and DiPrizio manufactured consecutive singles and with one out, Josh Gagne reached via error as the first two runners scored to make it a 2-0 game right off the bat.
The meat of Bristol’s order tied up the game midway through the first as Mazzone smacked a nasty double down the line in left and when Marquis singled to right-center, Post 2 had two runners on.
Then Richardson dropped in a double of his own as Mazzone scored to cut the deficit to 2-1.
And when Marquis crossed the plate via a Fradette groundout to second, it was a brand new game at 2-2.
“I was happy. They scored two [and] we got two right back,” said LaPenta.
However, that stalemate was short lived.
Another two-out rally in the top of the second inning saw Creteau zip out an RBI single and when DiPrizio reached base via error, Jewell sent a screaming triple to right as two runs scored – making it a 5-2 contest.
In the bottom of the tilt, Lemke got onboard with a single to start the second and when Micale walked, Bristol had two on with two outs.
But Dow wiggled out of the jam when Mazzone struck out as Rochester’s 5-2 lead was kept intact.
“Their guy did a good job,” said LaPenta of Dow. “He threw strikes. He wasn’t overpowering but he threw strikes.”
Two more two-out runs came to pass for Rochester in the third as Creteau – nabbing his third hit of the game – dropped a base into left, scoring Struthers and Gravel to give the squad a 7-2 lead.
Bristol bounced right back in the bottom of the third frame as Marquis and Richardson posted back-to-back singles and when Fradette snuck a slow roller up the middle, the lead runner scored to make it a 7-3 game.
However, Post 2 wasn’t finished.
Lemke pulled out a risky bunt to the pitcher that wasn’t cleanly fielded as Richardson charged home.
The only play was at first base and with the out, the RBI got Bristol a little closer at 7-4.
“We got it back,” said LaPenta. “It was still a game at 7-4.”
And when Rasmus grounded out to close the inning, Rochester was still on top but only by three runs.
Gagne opened the fourth with a single to left and Lahey’s afternoon was complete as Micale came in for his second relief appearance of the tournament.
“I went to Troy, I didn’t really have a lot of options,” said LaPenta. “He was pitching on short rest and he hadn’t really pitched all year because his arm was hurt. We ran into some pitching issues. A couple other guy’s arms were not serviceable that hadn’t pitched yet. They kind of came up with lame arms.”
“When you’re facing a good team and you’re short on your pitching, you don’t have a lot of options.”
But then a slick double play, finished off by a hustling Micale with a putout at first base as New Hampshires threat was thought to be quickly squashed.
Struthers managed a hit to follow up the double play and when Gravel was plunked by a pitch, there were two on with two outs.
And Dow aided his own cause with an RBI single to center as the Bristol deficit reached 8-4 through three-and-a-half innings.
Post 2 went down in order in the fourth and through four, Rochester held a tenable 8-4 edge.
With one gone in the fifth, DiPrizio slammed a tripled into deep left and Jewell followed up with an RBI single to left to make it a 9-4 game as the runner hustled to second off an error on the play.
Jewell quickly stole third but was eventually tagged out in a rundown and off a walk to Henry, Struthers popped out but the visitors still led by five.
In the sixth, Gravel dropped in a single to center and on a hit-and-run, Dow edged a double to deep right as New Hampshire had runners on second and third with no one out.
Shawn Cormier whiffed but Creteau hit an RBI grounder to Fradette, plating Gravel, as Rochester’s edge reached 10-4.
After Owsianko got hit by a pitch, Lemke hit into a 1-6-3 double play and as the seventh inning commenced, New Hampshire’s six-run cushion remained firmly entrenched on the scoreboard.
Bristol finally posted a 1-2-3 inning against New Hampshire in the seventh – ending a Rochester streak of at least one run scored over the first six innings – and when Micale posted a single with one gone in the bottom of the frame, Bristol tried to put together a rally.
Mazzone grounded out, Marquis walked to put two on but Richardson grounded out to first as New Hampshire led 10-4 through seven.
And then Rochester added four runs in the eighth to make it a ten-run lead.
Struthers drilled a single to left to lead things off and when Gravel stretched a double to right – just passed a diving Brad Burney – runners were on second and third with no outs on the board.
And the knuckleballer followed it up with a slow roller passed first base, scoring both Struthers and Gravel, as the game was a 12-4 showing in favor of Rochester.
Shawn Cormier then singled to left as New Hampshire had two on once again in the tilt and when Creteau added his fourth hit of the showdown, the bases were quickly juiced.
DiPrizio then lifted a fly ball to left field for an out and off the sacrifice, Dow scored and when Gagne grounded out, Cormier scooted home to make it a 14-4 game.
Bristol had to score at least one run to keep the game going to avoid the mercy rule.
Fradette opened Bristol’s portion of the frame with a towering double to centerfield as Bristol was trying to keep the game going.
But that lone runner never scored as Bristol’s season ended in the 14-4 loss to Rochester.
“Like I told the kids all year, we battled,” said LaPenta. “We hadn’t given up. Like the other night, when we were down in the first game [against Cumberland 10-1]. We could have rolled over and went away then [but we didn’t]. Sometimes you need breaks in baseball.”
CUMBERLAND RHODE ISLAND 10, BRISTOL (POST 2) 7
from Muzzy Field, Bristol
Bristol 000 010 402 – 7 7 3
Cumberland, RI 051 022 00X – 10 12 7
Bristol – Noah Cruz, Troy Micale (3) & Nick Sassu; Cumberland – C. Wright, N. Crowe (6), M. Bogolawski (8), D. Cunha (9) & J. Petrin
WP – Wright (Cumberland)
LP – Noah Cruz (Bristol)
2B – Andrew Owsianko (Bristol), Chris Wright (Cumberland)
3B – None
HR – None
SF – Zach Marquis (Bristol)
SB – Cory Fradette (Bristol), Nick Sassu (Bristol), Josh Brodeur (Cumberland), Tyler Walsh (Cumberland)
HBP – Chris Wright (Cumberland), Trevor Marquis (Cumberland), Drew Szafranski (Cumberland)
LOB – Bristol 9; Cumberland 15
Records – Cumberland 1-0; Bristol 0-1
ROCHESTER 14, BRISTOL (POST 2) 4 (8)
from Muzzy Field, Bristol
Rochester, NH (2-1) 232 111 04 – 14 19 1
Bristol (1-2) 202 000 00 – 4 9 3
Rochester – Christian Dow, & Anthony DiPrizio; Bristol – Wes Lahey, Troy Miclae (3), Ricky Lemke (8) & Nick Sassu, Greg Lozier (6)
WP – Christian Dow (Rochester)
LP – Wesley Lahey (Bristol)
2B – Christian Dow (New Hampshire), Ben Mazzone (Bristol), ‘Big’ Chadd Richardson (Bristol), Ben Gravel (New Hampshire) 2, Cory Fradette (Bristol)
3B – Justin Jewell (New Hampshire), Anthony DiPrizio (New Hampshire)
HR – None
SB – Justin Jewell (New Hampshire), Rick DiPrizio (New Hampshire)
SF – Tony DiPrizio (New Hampshire)
LOB – Rochester ; Bristol
HBP – Andrew Owsianko (Bristol), Ben Gravel (New Hampshire) 2, Anthony DiPrizio (New Hampshire), Josh Gagne (New Hampshire), Justin Jewell (New Hampshire)
DP – Rochester 1; Bristol 1