By MICHAEL LETENDRE
FARMINGTON – When the call to the bullpen for the Bristol American Legion baseball squad came before the first pitch was even thrown against Unionville on Monday, July 3, Shawn Savior was ready.
Getting his first ever start, Savior went the distance in a neat one-run, three-hit gem that led to a 7-1 victory for Post 2 from Tunis Mead Park in Farmington.
With the win, Bristol moved to 14-6 overall on the season and 13-5 in Zone 1 play – just a half-game behind second place Southington (13-4) and 1.5 games behind division leader Avon (14-3-1).
Savior (two K’s) threw a complete gem game and never struggled with his command over a 73-pitch stint.
He retired the last seven batters he faced and walked just one to earn the win.
“We were going to start (Noah) Cruz but his arm’s been bothering him,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “He told me he couldn’t go. Noah wasn’t going to pitch the whole game anyways so I told Shawn he was probably going to come in [during] the second or third inning. He knew he was going to pitch.”
“He just threw strikes and with the wood bat, you can throw strikes, get your curve ball over for strikes, and you’re going to have success.”
Billy Collins had two of Unionville’s three hits but none of those tallies were able to reach the outfield.
Post 32 was down their usual starting second baseman and shortstop due to vacation and the like, already behind the eight-ball before the first pitch was even thrown.
“They were a little short today,” said LaPenta of Unionville’s line-up. “Granted, [Unionville] hasn’t had a good season but you know what, there’s only a week, 10 days left [in the season]. You can’t bail on your teammates like that. That’s what I tell our guys. You’re committed and no vacation during the season. The season is over in the middle of July unless we go on a long run. You’ve got to be committed from the beginning to the end.”
“[It’s] five weeks, you get a month-and-a-half for the summer. I felt kind of bad for them.”
Bristol pounded the opponents for 14 hits as several players ended up with multiple cracks at the plate.
Ben Mazzone went 3-of-4 with three runs scored and an RBI, “Big” Chadd Richardson was 3-of-3 with three RBI, Noah Plantamuro had two hits and an RBI, while Jaeden Rasmus also ramped up two hits and scored twice.
Jalen Benoit (single, RBI), Cruz (single), Mike Lemke (1-of-1, sacrifice bunt), and Anthony Lozier (single) all scooped up base hits for the victors.
“I thought we did a really good job against their pitcher even though he was throwing very slowly,” said LaPenta. “Sometimes in the past, we’ve struggled against those guys. We’d get ourselves out, popped-out. But we did a good job hitting line-drives.”
Bristol jumped on Unionville for three runs in the top of the first and never looked back.
Mazzone started the contest with a single to left and advanced to second on a Fradette grounder.
Richardson then singled to right to score Mazzone to make it a 1-0 game.
Mike Massarelli advanced the runner and Richardson scored off a Plantamuro offering to center for an RBI.
Finally, Benoit dropped an RBI base hit to right and when Plantamuro crossed the plate, it was a 3-0 Bristol push and Post 32 was already down and out.
“You get three runs in the first inning, everybody’s connects there, relaxes, and the hitting gets contagious,” said LaPenta.
In the top of the second, it was tomfoolery time for Bristol.
Rasmus snuck out an infield hit— as did Mike Lemke— to put a couple runners onboard.
Two outs later, Post 2 had men on first and third and it was pickle rundown time.
Fradette, on first base, broke for second and Rasmus eventually took off for home – crossing the plate before Fradette was tagged out, making it a 4-0 game.
Unionville put men on in the first and second frames but nothing came of it as Bristol ended the second on a 1-6-5 pickoff play as the 4-0 contest moved into the third inning.
Richardson walked in the third and when Massarelli was plunked by a pitch, there were two on with no one out.
Plantamuro hit into a 1-5 putout, Benoit flew to center and off one final groundout by Cruz, Post 32 did not allow a run in an inning as Unionville was looking to dent the four-run Bristol edge.
But Savoir retired seven in a row for Post 2 as the visitors padded its edge with two additional runs in the fourth.
Rasmus singled to get on and Lemke bunted the runner over into scoring position.
Mazzone then sent a screamer to left, easily scoring Rasmus, as the double made it 5-0 in Post 2’s favor.
And then with two outs Richardson slammed a base hit to right for another RBI tally to make it a 6-0 lead through four.
Unionville’s defense did well in the fifth, generating a 6-4-3 double play, to keep it a half-dozen deficit.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bristol made defensive changes as Jake Violette (center) and Lozier (right) moved into the outfield.
Post 32 finally put something together in the bottom of the fifth as Billy Collins generated his second infield hit of the day.
After Savoir walked Mahil Saravana and Alex Roldan – the losing pitch of the affair – unleashed an infield hit to third that was not playable, the bases were juiced.
Alex Sawirski was then a hit by a pitch to drive in a run to make it a 6-1 game.
But a grounder extinguished by Mazzone at third ended the fifth inning with Bristol ahead by five.
In the sixth, Lozier opened the stanza with a single to right and Mazzone blasted a base hit to left – his third straight tally to that part of the field – as two runners were on.
With two gone, Richardson slipped a base hit into short left as Mazzone scored and Bristol regained the six-run push, 7-1.
Savior pitched another 1-2-3 inning, shutting down the side in the sixth, as Post 2 cruised into the seventh and final inning of play.
Plantamuro opened the seventh with a single to right and Cruz generated his first hit of the game – a little Texas Leaguer to center – to get on.
But Post 32 nabbed three quick outs to keep Bristol off the board in the seventh but down to its final three outs, and Savior cruising, the home team would have to stage quite a comeback to steal the game.
Savior closed it out by retiring the side in order to earn his first ever American Legion victory with the 7-1 win.
“It was one of those games, you know, you’ve got to beat teams you’re supposed to beat,” said LaPenta. “Unionville’s in last place, you can’t afford to give it away. So, I said come here, take care of business, take two days off, and then we’ve got some big games this week to try to make a run at [first place].”