By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Southington Legion baseball team snuck out a 6-5, eight inning victory on Thursday, June 22, against Bristol from Muzzy Field in a back-and-forth affair that either program could have come away with.
Several lead changes were the norm and by the completion of seven innings, an extra frame was needed in the 5-5 stalemate.
And in the top of the eighth, a passed ball led to the winning run of the game as Post 72 came away with the one-run triumph over Post 2.
A late game error helped lead to the final run in the eighth – an inning Bristol should have been out of 1-2-3 – to keep it a tied game going into the bottom of the inning.
“It was a very difficult loss,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “I told the guys [after the game] I don’t get mad at errors because errors are part of the game but I get disappointed. I did get mad though about the way we handled ourselves after that. Guys were dropping their heads, not running out pop-ups…my biggest thing is don’t disrespect the game. Make an error, make a mistake, you’ve got to keep your head up and play hard.”
Southington’s John Gray opened the game with a walk but was picked off via a 1-6-3 putout and Post 72 went down in order.
Post 2 earned a run in the bottom of the first tilt when Ben Mazzone (1-for-4, run) dropped a blooper into right and with two outs, “Big” Chadd Richardson (2-for-4, run) slipped a base hit by first base to put runners on the corners.
And once again, it was tomfoolery time from Muzzy Field.
The double steal was on and when Richardson was heading for second, the ball went to the bag.
As the ball was bobbled at second, Richardson was eventually tagged out, but Mazzone easily stepped on the plate before that could happen as Bristol surged in front 1-0 to start things off after one.
In the second frame, Southington’s Dan Topper hit a grounder to right field but was retired via a 9-3 putout but Bailey Roberge (3-of-4, run) managed to sneak out an infield hit.
But Jake Weed grounded out to send Post 72 back into the field.
Connor McDonough pitched a flawless second inning and going into the third, it was still a 1-0 tilt in Bristol’s favor.
In the top of the third, Southington finally got to work offensively with one out on the board.
Mason Dibble (2-for-4, two RBI) and Gray smoked out back-to-back singles before a walk to Josh Panarcella loaded things up.
Bristol starting pitcher Jake Violette (4.1 IP, eight hits, 3 K’s) got a nine-pitch strikeout on Brayden Cooney for the second out but Jake Babon drew ball four – scoring Dibble – as Southington tied things up at 1-1 apiece.
In the bottom of the stanza, Post 2 couldn’t get anything going and entering the fourth frame, the 1-1 stalemate was the score of the contest.
But Southington rallied as Robarge singled and when Brandon Kohl (1-for-4, double, 2 stolen bases) scorched a double towards the line in left, two men were in scoring position.
And when Dibble sent a roller through the middle of the infield, he emptied the bases as Post 72 surged in front 3-1.
Bristol attempted to answer when Cory Fradette (2-for-3, sac fly, RBI), Zach Marquis (1-for-3, run walk), and Richardson scratched out back-to-back-to-back singles as the squad had three on with no outs in the bottom of the fourth.
Noah Plantamuro then hit a ball to the pitcher but when the throw got away at first base, Fradette scored from third to make it a 3-2 game.
And the runs kept coming.
Then, in attempt to get Marquis at third off a pick-off play, the ball got away from the third baseman – plating the runner – as the game was all tied up at 3-3.
Finally, Jalen Benoit (1-for-2, sac fly, RBI) lofted a fly to short left for the second out of the inning but the speedster at third base, Richardson, was off and running.
The throw came in ahead of Richardson but as he slid into the plate, the ball was dropped, the runner was safe, and Post 2 retook the lead at 4-3 going into the fifth inning.
With one out in the fifth, Babon walked for the second time and a sacrifice bunt saw the runner arrive to first safely off a botched catch.
From there, Robarge earned his second infield hit of the game and third overall to juice the bases.
Weed then roped a base hit to right, scoring Babon and Topper, and quickly, Southington was back in front at 5-4.
With runners on, reliever Kenny Knox (six K’s, one hit) came in for Violette and Post 72 did not score again in the frame.
A bungled double-steal attempt saw the lead runner for Southington get cut down and when Kohl was fanned by Knox, Bristol was looking to take back the lead, down by a run.
Ganavage walked on four straight balls to get on base in the bottom of the fifth and stole second to get into scoring position.
Lemke battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a base-on-balls and off the final ball, a wild pitch allowed Ganavage to take third base.
With runners on the corners, Mazzone popped-up, but when Fradette sent a fly ball to right for the second out, Ganavage scored the tying run at the game was knotted up at 5-5 via the sacrifice fly.
Marquis then sent a grounder to third that was misplayed to first base and runners were on the corners once again.
But when Post 2 tried its same tomfoolery play for the second time, Marquis was just tagged out as Lemke stepped on the plate – nullifying what would had been the go-ahead run – as the game when into the sixth tied at 5-5.
Post 72 went down quietly in the sixth, as did Post 2, and moving into the final inning of regulation, just one run was needed to win the game.
Cooney led off the top of the seventh with a deep double to center and Southington had the game-winning run on.
Babon then looked at strike three and a groundout by Topper allowed the lead runner to reach third base with two outs.
But Knox fanned Robarge to give his mates a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh.
It didn’t come to pass as Bristol was retired in order and extra innings quickly commenced.
A dropped pop-up at third with one out put Kohl on and after consecutive stolen bases, he ran home on a passed ball and going into the bottom of the eighth, Post 2 trailed 6-5 and needed a run to draw even.
Southington reliever Justin Verrilli came in to throw but had to face the top of the Bristol order.
Mazzone popped out but when Fradette raced out an infield hit to short, the tying runner was at first.
Marquis then walked to put two on as Richardson was due up.
The cleanup hitter flew out to second and Plantamuro, after Fradette swiped third base and Marquis took second to get both runner in scoring position, struck out as Southington hung on to win it, 6-5.
“In the bottom of the seventh, we still had a chance to win that game,” said LaPenta. “We had the winning run at second base,” said LaPenta. “We didn’t get it done.”