By MICHAEL LETENDRE
SOUTH WINDSOR – Thanks to an extra inning affair between the Chicago Sam’s Orioles and Elmer’s Silver Bullets in a Connecticut Twilight League playoff confrontation on Thursday, Aug. 10, the contest between the Bristol Knights and Glastonbury Pirates was delayed about 71 minutes.
And just like that first game, regulation could not decide a winner in the second end of the doubleheader.
But in the eighth inning, a late Bristol error allowed Glastonbury to score the final run of the contest as the third ranked Pirates defeated the second seeded Knights 3-2 from Rotary Field in South Windsor.
“We made a couple [errors] in the first few innings and then we had a chance to make a couple big plays in the end and we didn’t make them,” said Bristol coach Ryan LaRochelle.
The victory kept Glastonbury in the winner’s bracket while Bristol fell into the loser’s portion, having the play the following night against No. 8 Willimantic in an elimination showdown.
Glastonbury pitcher Brandon Lagueux hung in and battled through seven tough innings, earning the win before Zach Cloft pitched the eighth to earn a save.
Bristol’s Mike Castellani (6 IP, 10 K’s, three hits, three walks, two runs) had to work hard but did not allow a run after the second inning while Marco Ross (2 IP, one hit, four K’s) earned a very hard luck loss as a huge miscue led to the final run of the outing to score.
Even though the game started late, Glastonbury got right to work offensively.
Josue Lopez led off the game with a single to right field and when Castellani tried to pick him off, the ball sailed passed Marco Ross at first base and the runner chugged to third safely with no one out.
With one gone, Lopez was singled home but the Bristol defense did not allow another hit as Glastonbury held a 1-0 push through just a half inning of action.
Bristol was robbed of a couple hits by some excellent Glastonbury defense to open the bottom of the first but the Knights managed to tie the score none-the-less.
Neil Kelley hustled out an infield bunt and when the ball was chucked away at first base, the speedster reached second safely.
He eventually stole third and when Kyle Lentini walked aboard, there were two on with two outs.
A passed ball eventually allowed Kelley to scoot home to tie the score at 1-1 after one completed frame.
And then Glastonbury retook the lead without the benefit of a hit.
Castellani walked the lead batter to open the second inning and Cloft sacrificed the runner over to second to get into scoring position.
Bill Elder then drew a base-on-balls and when Josh Figuroa’s grounder was bobbled at shortstop and Bristol was unable to get the runner at second, the bases were loaded up with one out.
Steve Kelley then looked at strike three but the Pirates scored a run when Lopez put the ball in play to shortstop.
Tommy Stagis couldn’t cleanly field the ball as the error made it a 2-1 game in Glastonbury’s favor.
However in the bottom of the stanza, Tyler Pina earned a full-count walk – after the home plate umpire forgot to call a ball – and took second off an Earl Oakes strikeout.
Stagis also fell via strikes but when Rick Barrett earned a base-on-balls, runners were on first and second with two gone.
A fielder’s choice ended the second inning as Glastonbury maintained its 2-1 edge.
In the bottom of the third, Bristol retied the game off a little clever hitting.
With one away, Clout slammed a deep double to center and when Kelley came in to pinch run, he stole third base.
From there, Lentini dropped a blooper behind first as his RBI tally made it a 2-2 contest through three.
The fourth inning saw Cloft pick up a one-out walk but the Bristol lefty refused to let him score, striking out Eller and Josh Figuroa to keep the thing knotted at 2-2.
Oakes then dropped a one-out single just over the arms of the Glastonbury shortstop in the bottom of the fourth and Stagis followed up with a single to right as two men were on for Bristol.
But a pop-out and a fielder’s choice ended the fourth as the stalemate preceded to the fifth inning of play.
Phillips reached base in the top of the fifth on a fielding error and when he took second, the runner was in scoring position with two outs.
Castelloni ended up striking out the side and the 2-2 tilt was the score of the contest.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lentini sent a base hit to left but ended up stranded at second base as neither team could break the tie.
To start the sixth, Ismael Bolorin beat out an infield hit but the ball was thrown to first base anyway – too high for Ross to make a play on it – as the runner took second with no one out.
But three outs later, including Castelloni’s ninth and 10th K’s, Bristol’s pitcher had gotten his squad out of another jam.
“Mike did not have his best stuff to start but even after a couple of errors, one of his own and by a couple of his teammates, he battled through and threw four consecutive shutout innings to end his start,” said LaRochelle. “He faced a team that really did a nice job driving his pitch count up. They fouled off a lot of two-strike pitches, they laid off of a lot of breaking balls that were close to the zone. So even though they didn’t get a ton of hits or hit a ton of balls really hard, they still made him work.”
Oakes did his job again at the plate in the sixth, flipping in an infield hit the second baseman could not cleanly stop with one gone.
Nick DiTaranto took over for Oakes at first and represented the go-ahead run.
Stagis then flew out to left and when Barrett drew four straight balls, the Knights had two runners on again.
Eddie Dickman ending up hitting a sharp liner to Lagueux on the mound to end the sixth as the showdown moved into the final inning of regulation, still knotted up at 2-2.
Ross came into pitch for Castelloni in the seventh and he struck out the side, breaking a couple Glastonbury bats along the way, as Bristol needed just one run to win it with the heart of the order ready to battle Lagueux.
And the Knights had the leadoff hitter on as Kelley slapped a single down the left field line and the winning run was on.
But Kelley quickly got caught in a rundown, was tagged out, and there was one out was recorded on the scoreboard.
Clout then reached base on an error but was gunned out advancing to second and when Lentini popped out foul, the game went into extra innings.
“Base running errors were an issue in addition to the defensive miscues,” said LaRochelle. “So we left a number of runners on base. We had situations where we could have had big innings but we ran ourselves out of it. I’m not going to say I’m happy about that but we’ve been aggressive all year so sometimes you win being aggressive and sometimes it comes back and bites you in the butt.”
Ross earned his fourth consecutive K to open the eighth but yielded a two-out walk as Glastonbury had the winning tally on base.
Off a stolen base, Bolorin was intentionally walked to put two on.
And Dan Baccaro hit a single to left to load things up but when the ball got away from the outfielder, the go-ahead run crossed the plate to make it a 3-2 game going into the bottom of the eighth with Bristol needing to score one to continue the contest.
“Marco threw a spectacular first inning” of relief said LaRochelle. “Then they got to him. We intentionally walked a guy and the next hitter got a big hit on the first pitch afterwards. What are you going to do?”
Croft then came in to pitch for Lagueux, who clearly wanted to finish the game he started, and was looking to close out a save situation.
Ross flew out to center to open the eighth but pinch-hitter Dan Nunes reached base off an error and Bristol had the tying run on with one out.
Dunes then stole second and advanced to third on a DiTaranto ground out.
But Cloft struck out Stagis to end the game as Bristol was forced to get to the championship round the hard way, through the loser’s bracket which the Knights have successfully navigated through in the past.
“We’ve had more success over the years when we’ve made it more difficult on ourselves as opposed to when we’ve put ourselves in a good position,” said LaRochelle. “So I hope that continues.”