By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the top two teams of the Connecticut Twilight League, Central division clashed on Thursday, July 20 from Clem J. Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern, one big inning decided the contest.
And that frame belonged to the Bristol Knights.
The Knights dropped five fourth inning runs on Elmer’s Silver Bullets as Bristol roped up a 6-2 win to move to 13-3-2 on the campaign and increase its division leading edge to four games.
Defense was the name of the game for the Knights as pitcher Mike Castellani (5 IP, 2 hits, 5 K’s) allowed just one run to cross the plate while Bristol did not make an error in the field.
Bristol’s Tyler Favreau, at third base, turned in some nice plays early, setting the tone of the showdown.
“Tyler made a couple nice plays defensively at third in the first couple innings and Mike threw a lot of strikes. He worked quickly,” said Bristol Knights coach Brian LaRochelle. “He pitched from ahead and he got the strikeouts when he needed to. He did an awesome job.”
Bristol’s Kyle Lentini smacked out two hits, scored a run and was plunked by a pitch while Favreau also scooped up two hits and added an RBI.
Eddie Dickman added a hit while Chris McGrath flipped out an RBI single for the Knights.
Finally, Tyler Pina jammed a deep RBI double to center for the biggest hit of the game.
The Silver Bullets had veteran chucker Russell LaFleur start the contest and he threw well until that bumpy fourth frame when the visitors had trouble generating outs.
LaFleur sent a one-out hopper past the Bristol second baseman to get onboard in the first but was quickly picked off to end the threat.
But LaFleur sent the Knights’ down in order in the bottom of the first and the game was on.
To open the second, Favreau made a slick grab of Nick Magoulas’s grounder to post an out and midway through the second, the Knights were looking to get one on LaFleur.
Lentini smacked a blast by the shortstop to open the Knights portion of the second and advanced a base via steal with one gone.
And he scored when Favreau scorched a hot-shot to right field as Bristol surged in front 1-0 through two.
Bristol looked to be rallying for a run in the bottom of the third as a two-out walk by Scott Dickens put a runner on base.
From there, Dickman slapped a single to left but Steve Clout grounded out to end the inning.
Castellani faced the minimum batters through four innings as he allowed just the single to LaFleur while punching out four.
Lentini was hit by a pitch to start up the fourth as the Knights were threatening again.
And then Pina nearly unleashed a ball to the old classroom of former Bristol Eastern teacher Bob Zysk as Lentini easily scored to make it a 2-0 game via the RBI double.
Favreau then added a tally to right as the Knights had two former Plainville High School standouts on the corners with no one out.
And when Nick Dzioba drew ball four, the bases were loaded, still without the benefit of an out.
Nick DiTaranto then drilled a grounder to first base but the throw home to get Pina sailed over the catcher’s head and a hustling Favreau scored behind him as well.
The miscue plated two runs as Bristol’s edge increased to 4-0.
With runners on second and third, McGrath unloaded an RBI single to center and when Dzioba tagged the plate, a 5-0 score followed.
A passed ball scored DiTaranto to push the lead out to six before the stanza was finally completed.
“That inning we got the five runs and we pushed them across but in other innings, we hit the ball hard right at guys,” said LaRochelle. “But our line-up did a good job swinging the bats today. And that [fourth] inning was a result of the results we had the first four.”
In the top of the fifth, Elmer’s finally hung a number other than a zero on the scoreboard.
With one out, Alex Magus was just grazed by a pitch, advance to second on a groundout and scored off a single to center by Mike Cook to chop the deficit to 6-1.
But Bristol quickly got back to the plate and with one out, Lentini dropped a single into center but ended up stranded at second.
In the sixth, A.J. Lowers hit a sacrifice fly to plate a run off DiTaranto in relief to cut the deficit to 6-2 but when Favreau closed out the game in the seventh, the Knights earned a four-run win to move to 13-3-2 on the campaign.
“The whole idea is to keep guys healthy, get guys out there and give them a chance to play and then play the nine who performed best in the playoffs,” said LaRochelle. “So we’re having fun. We’re giving guys a chance to play some baseball and hopefully something good comes out of it in a couple weeks.”
Bristol then played five straight road games, starting against the Chicago Sam’s Orioles (July 21), the Willimantic Ridges (Monday, July 24), the East Hartford Angels (Tuesday, July 25), the Glastonbury Pirates (Wednesday, July 26), and a rematch against Elmer’s (Friday, July 28) before a double-dip from Muzzy Field on Monday, July 31 against the Wethersfield Dodgers and the Ridges.
“We have a big trip out to Willimantic,” said LaRochelle. “I think we have a couple more road games in the middle of the week and then we have a big doubleheader at Muzzy the following Monday. The season is coming pretty quickly to an end. It’s crazy how fast it goes.”