By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When your baseball squad is young and gaining experience along the way, picking up a huge victory on the biggest stage of the season helps that process along quite nicely.
And that’s exactly what the Forestville A’s did on Wednesday, Aug. 16 in Bristol Baseball Little League City Series play as the host team eliminated the double-tough Edgewood Phillies 7-6 from Watson Field at Peck Park.
The Phillies held a three-run edge in the game before seeing the youthful A’s eventually came from behind to qualify for the championship round against the McCabe-Waters Red Sox in a best-of-three challenge.
“You know what, what I told them is ‘that you have the game. You have the game, you’ve got to will it, want it more than the other team,’” said A’s manager Dean Varano when his squad was trailing. “’You can do this.’ These guys, we are the youngest team in this league. I think they’re the youngest team in the city. We don’t have any 12-year-olds.”
The more experienced Phillies led 4-1 through an inning-and-a-half of work and then trailed by three in the top of the sixth frame before a huge two-RBI triple from Brian Wilson made it 7-6 late but Edgewood never came all the way back.
“It was a tough game. We were chasing runs again,” said Phillies manager Brian Guarda. “That’s always a tough thing. We chase runs at the end but the kids battled. They didn’t give up when they went down but it was tough to lose the lead.”
A’s starting pitcher Ryan Maglio was sharp out the gate but two consecutive walks to Preston Guarda and Brian Wilson put two on before fanning Harry Ross to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Kyle Wilson slapped out a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch, a passed ball, and an error to give the home squad a 1-0 push through one.
The Phillies again had runners on first and second in the stanza as Danny Wilson was hit-by-pitch and Anthony Nocera walked to get things cooking.
And then, the Phillies started a two out rally.
Michael McMahon smashed a two-run double down the left field line, scoring both runners, as Edgewood claimed a 2-1 lead.
Then Ryan Ring put a ball into orbit, a two-run shot over the centerfield fence, as the Phillies left the inning ahead by three, 4-1.
“He pitched a really good game,” said Guarda of Maglio. “But we got to him, that’s the thing. We got to him and I thought once we got to him, this game was in our hands but, obviously, we let it go.”
The A’s looked to respond as Noah Albert zipped a single to center and Caleb Molinsky reached second base off multiple errors.
Gavin Calvin was plunked by a pitch to load things up and Albert scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Nick Zygiel then forced a full-count walk and the bases were juiced for the top of the order.
Ring struck out Crowley but, as Molinsky got caught in a rundown in-between third and home, the ball was eventually thrown into the outfield, scoring the runner and making it a 4-3 contest through two wacky frames of play.
The Phillies went down in order during the top of the third and in the bottom of the tilt, Ring zipped up four strikeouts but a passed ball saw Cole Varano make it to first and scored on an error to tie the thing up at 4-4.
“There were a lot of unearned runs,” said Guarda. “It was a tough game for us today.”
And then Molinsky dropped a double into left, scoring Williams, as the A’s re-took the lead at 5-4 through three.
“We bounced back,” said Varano. “You know what? These guys never give up. We talked about this in practice. We’ve come back in so many games. Even if we lost, they always came back. They never gave up.”
But the Phillies came back themselves, putting runners on the corners in the top of the fourth before Guarda struck out as Forestville kept its one-run edge.
Wilson drew a one-out walk for the A’s in the bottom of the fourth stanza but was out at second via a fielder’s choice.
Varano made it to first base on his at-bat, stole second, and scored when Maglio drilled a single to left – propelling Forestville to a 6-4 push.
He later scored on an Albert infield hit to second and going into the fifth inning, Edgewood trailed 7-4.
Maglio lasted 4.1 innings, picking up 10 strikeouts along the way over the winning effort, and Kyle Wilson came and eventually saved the event with one gone in the fifth.
“My two seam fast-ball seemed to go pretty fast,” said Maglio of his pitching performance. “I had the curveball [going] too and it was fooling some batters and once you get a strikeout, you just get pumped up.”
But three walks later off Wilson, the Phillies had the bases loaded with James Myers coming to the plate, representing the go-ahead run for Edgewood.
Myers ended up grounding out to short as the A’s kept its three-run cushion intact going into the bottom of the fifth.
Guarda did well in relief, cruising on the mound for the Phillies as he nabbed two strikeouts, and to open the sixth, Edgewood was down to its final three outs and had to score three run to draw even in the showdown.
And the Phillies just about emptied the tank over a courageous sixth inning effort.
McMahon opened the frame with a chopper to short that was misplayed and Ring was intentionally walked, to his displeasure, that put the tying run at home plate and the Phillies had three shots at tying it up.
And with one gone, that’s exactly what Brian Wilson tried to do.
He slammed a triple to the gap in left, scoring McMahon and Ring, and quickly, the A’s edge was cut to 7-6 with a runner on third.
But Ross struck out and Danny Wilson grounded out to first as Forestville held on to win, 7-6.
“I thought we had a good chance,” said Guarda of the final inning. “Even on a passed ball, I was ready to send [Brian Wilson home], trying to tie the game but we had a couple good hitters coming up and I thought we had a great chance of tying the game on anything, on any hit.”
“It just didn’t happen, it just didn’t work out of us, [and] that’s what baseball is.”
And for the youngest squad out of the three Bristol programs, it was off to the City Series championship round versus the double-tough McCabe-Waters Red Sox.
“No matter what happens, I’m really proud of them that we got to where we got,” said Varano. “It’s all [from] hard work.”
NOTES…On Friday, Aug. 18, the Red Sox won the first game of the championship series 17-6…There was an interruption in City Series coverage in the Bristol Observer this past weekend as Asa Jagger Letendre was born on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 11:40 a.m. at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. He had to arrive a little early (29.5 weeks), was two pounds, three ounces but as of press time he was doing really well. We’ll have a further update on little Asa in next week’s edition.