By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTHINGTON – Maybe the American Legion baseball campaign ended a bit sooner than it should have for the outfit from Bristol but the team nearly put together a 20-win campaign behind a boatload of tough pitching.
Post 2 ended the 2017 season in the second round of the American Legion Connecticut State Tournament with a 5-0 loss to Southington on Sunday, July 15.
Bristol lost an incredible number of close games this season by a single run via seventh inning walk-offs and the like.
If Post 2 could have turned a couple of those near misses into victorious efforts, a Zone 1 championship would have followed as it was just that close this season between the top four squads in the division.
“[If] we could have had a couple breaks, we would have been in a better position…we would have been where [Zone 1 champion] Avon was,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “But that’s the way the season goes.”
Bristol ended up in third place in Zone 1 with a 17-7 record. Southington was one game better at 18-6. The zone winner Avon – who dropped two-of-of-three games to Bristol and had a walk-off in its only win against Post 2 – won the division with a 19-5 ledger.
Winsted (16-8) was a surprise fourth place team in Zone 1.
In all, Bristol lost five games by a single run – and that cost the squad dearly in terms of state tournament seeding and Zone 1 standing.
Two other set-backs were by two runs, another was by three and that final contest of the season against Post 72 was the only blowout of the season, a five-run loss.
However, Bristol had three walk-offs of its own, several come-from-behind wins, and the team remained positive throughout another tough slate of games.
“It was still a very enjoyable season” LaPenta told his players after the loss at Southington. “We were 10 games over .500. There’s a one-hundred and something Legion teams and we were down to the last twenty-four [in tournament play].”
The state tournament set-up was a weird one for most teams this year and it appeared, by winning percentages and the like, Post 2 probably shouldn’t have been in the same bracket as Southington or Avon.
Outside of a first round encounter with Berlin, which turned into a 1-0 barnburner against the tough Zone 7 foe, it was a trip through Zone 1 teams.
‘I wish we didn’t have to play our own zone guys” in the tournament said LaPenta. “If we would have won [against Southington], then we’d have Avon. You might as well have a four team, double elimination zone tournament…”
On the pitching front, Bristol was only truly stopped by the 105-pitch count rule this year though losing star chucker Noah Cruz (2-0 overall, Southern Connecticut State University) midseason due to injury hurt in the end.
Wes Lahey, soon to be headed off for Southern New Hampshire University, went a perfect 4-0 and was a major contributor to the pitching rotation and stud Zach Marquis (3-2, two saves, Western Connecticut State University) did a little of everything for the program, including getting the state tournament win over Berlin to help his squad advance.
Jaeden Rasmus (3-0, Elms College) got the job done when called upon and while Jake Violette (2-2) had a .500 campaign from the mound, a lack of run support doomed him over some well-pitched games.
Shawn Savior (1-0) posted a huge 7-1 win over Unionville on the road while Kenny Knox (3-4, Central Connecticut State College) saved three critical games, nabbed that series clinching win over Avon (9-3) while absorbing some hard-luck losses along the way.
Ben Mazzone (1-1, two saves) also showed a little zip on his throws and even Cory Fradette gave something during relief appearances.
Fradette and Noah Plantamuro brought defense to the infield and the return of catcher/first basemen, ‘big’ Chadd Richardson (Worchester State), gave Post 2 a solid two-way player who batted clean-up for the outfit.
Jalen Benoit (Curry College), Mike Lemke, and Anthony Lozier brought the defense to the outfield while Jeremy Ganavage proved something behind the plate each and every time he took the field.
And while Mike Massarelli wasn’t an everyday player for the squad, he produced off the bench when called upon.
“They played hard. I never questioned their heart,” said LaPenta of his squad. “They had three great walk-off wins.”
All in all, year 89 for the Bristol Legion baseball one was a successful one despite a short jaunt through the state tournament fray.
Season 90 should be another successful year as several Junior Legion players will make the leap up to the Senior level.
LaPenta was just hoping for a little more luck to come Bristol’s way in 2017 that just didn’t materialize in terms of wins and losses.
“It is what it is. You need breaks sometimes to have a championship run,” said LaPenta. “We had those in 2015. The only disappointing thing is we had talent. We had a really talented team. But you still need a couple breaks to go your way, a couple balls to pop out of a glove. You pick up two more wins and then we’re [the one’s] sitting and waiting [as the Zone 1 champ].”
“But it was enjoyable. I enjoyed it a lot.”