By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – There’s never a night off in Connecticut Twilight League baseball play.
And that was the case on Wednesday, June 28 when the Wethersfield Dodgers – new to the CTL in 2017 – took on the Central Division leading Bristol Knights in a showdown from Clem J. Roy Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern High School.
Wethersfield, entering the contest with just one win on the season, played Bristol tit-for-tat into the eighth inning when the Knights finally found the combination to bring home the game-winning run.
This time around, Bristol’s Tommy Stagis (2-for-3, double, RBI) smashed a game-winning double into right field – plating Tyler Pina – as the Knights held off the Dodgers 1-0 in eight innings, moving to 11-3-1 overall on the year.
Wethersfield fell to 1-10-1 in the losing effort.
Bristol veteran Earl Oakes set-up the eighth frame with a single down the left field line, Pina then came in to pinch run, and Stagis dropped a shot into right to tally the game’s only RBI.
“We had chances to get the big hit with runners in scoring position on a few occasions and Tommy’s been hitting the ball really well lately,” said Bristol Knights manager Brian LaRochelle. “He hit that ball hard at right field and it beat a guy.”
“It was good.”
On the mound, Bristol newcomer Mike Castellani earned the win for the squad in relief but the table was set-up off another outstanding effort from veteran chucker Marco Ross.
Ross allowed just three hits, all over the first two innings of play, while fanning seven in what turned into a dominating effort in six strong innings of work.
“Marco did what Marco does,” said LaRochelle. “He throws a lot of strikes. He kept defense on their toes. Mike, we just picked up this year. He’s a good, young left-handed pitcher and he’ll be a nice asset for us down the stretch.”
“He was excellent.”
Credit belonged to Wethersfield as starting pitcher Nico Spuches allowed just four hits over his five innings as the defense behind him made several big plays.
Overall, Bristol generated 10 hits but the Dodgers made two putouts at home plate to keep the game a scoreless affair, forcing the extra frame in the end.
“They gave us a tough game,” said LaRochelle of Wethersfield. “They made all the plays defensively and their pitcher did a great job bearing down when they had runners in scoring position with less than two outs.”
The game was a make-up affair between the teams as the Knights were the away squad that evening.
Bristol had something brewing over most of the innings but simply couldn’t get that elusive run across.
Julio Osvaldo Ortiz Rivera got hit by the very first pitch of the game but was later picked off second.
Steve Clout (3-for-3) then sent a single to right but could not advance as the scoreless tone of the contest was set.
In the bottom of the first, Wethersfield’s Zach Smith sent a screamer down the third baseline but the Dodgers could not put up a tally while in the top of the second, Pina slammed a double to right with two outs on the board but was stranded to end the frame.
The Dodgers staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the second as Chris Luczak and Nate Corriveau (two singles) had back-to-back hits but when Ross fanned Brian Fanelli, the game remained a scoreless affair.
From that point of the contest, Bristol pitching held Wethersfield to just one hit the rest of the game which came with two outs gone in the final inning.
The Knights went down in order in the third inning – as did the Dodgers – as the showdown quickly moved into the fourth stanza.
Clout nabbed another hit as his fourth inning nibbler was slowed down by the pitcher but died behind him – allowing the runner to reach base safely with one gone.
Two fly-outs later, the rally was crushed but Ross picked up strikeout four and five to close out the fourth as the pitcher’s duel proceeded into the fifth tilt.
And then Ross helped his own cause as he slammed a deep double to center to lead off the fifth and Pina slipped down a bit of a sacrifice bunt to move the runner along to third.
And then Oakes hit a grounder to short as Ross broke for home but was tagged out at the plate to preserve the 0-0 tie.
Ross retired his 10th straight batter as the sixth inning commenced with Stagis smashing a ball up the middle for a base hit – the third time in the game the lead batter got on base for the Knights.
But three outs later, Wethersfield slipped out of the jam and quickly back at the plate.
However, Ross posted his 13th straight retired batter as the seventh inning was quickly upon the game.
Bristol led off the frame with a base hit to right by Eddie Dickman and Clout followed with a two-base smash as Dickman hustled into third and two runners were in scoring position with no outs on the board.
Wethersfield, some how, managed to get out of the jam without allowing a runner to cross the plate.
Kyle Lentini dropped a single just on the grass behind second base but Dickman was cut-down trying to take home – the second time the Knights were denied the plate in the game.
Ricky Barrett then grounded out and when Ross looked at a third strike, the Dodgers sidestepped a huge hole.
Suddenly, Wethersfield was in position to steal the game in the bottom of the seventh tilt if the squad could just push a run across.
Castellani came in to relieve Ross and finally, the Dodgers got on base when Stagis misplayed a ball hit by Juan Bisono with two outs.
And when a pickoff attempt to first base went awry, Bisono was off to the races.
But as he got to third base, Bisono advanced just a step too far off the bag and Barrett made a quick tag for the out – ending the seventh – as the two errors did not harm the Knights and the game went into extra innings.
“We had a couple situations where we had defensive snafus,” said LaRochelle. “We had fielding errors or mental errors that could have cost us against a team that got the big hit. Fortunately, we had dominant pitching today.”
In the top of the eighth, Oakes rolled a grounder down the third-base line to get on base.
And then the two-out RBI double by Stagis plated Pina to make it 1-0 and Wethersfield was down to its final three outs.
However, with two gone in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers went for broke.
Luczak reached base via error and when Corriveau slapped a single to right, for his second hit of the engagement, two men were on.
But Fanelli fell to strikes as Bristol held on to win it by a 1-0 final.
“So far so good and feeling good about it,” said LaRochelle of the season. “We’re still trying to hit our stride offensively. But our pitchers have been good and our young players have been excellent.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.