By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Without a shadow of a doubt, the Winsted senior American Legion program is much improved despite its middle of the Zone 1 pack standing it entered with against Bristol on Monday, June 25.
But three Bristol errors didn’t help matters as Post 43 scooped up a 5-2 win as Post 2 lost for the first time all season, falling to 7-1-1 overall (5-1-1 Zone 1).
Coupled with the five errors, the squad committed the previous game against Torrington, those eight miscues eventually caught up to the squad in the win/loss column.
“I told them eight errors in two games is not going to win you too many games,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “We’re lucky to be 1-1 with eight [combined] errors.”
Winsted moved to 4-3 in the winning effort and won three consecutive games after beating Torrington the following day.
Bristol’s Zach Marquis (1-1), off stellar no-decision efforts at Wolcott and Simsbury earlier in the year, earned the loss despite throwing a six-hitter while collecting nine strikeouts.
“He’s been a tough luck pitcher,” said LaPenta of Marquis. “He was cruising right along, throwing strikes [and] had all three of his pitches. One inning there, I called curve ball, slider, [and] fastball. He almost threw nine pitches in the same sequence. And then he dropped his elbow on a bunt, the ball sailed and then he kind of lost his mojo a little bit. But you know what you’re going to get with Zach. He’s going to throw strikes [and] you’re going to be in the game. If we don’t make some errors, then it’s tied right to the end.”
“I’ll take that being the home team.”
Marquis wasted precious little time getting into the groove, striking out two batters in the first inning and getting his mates to the dish quickly.
But Winsted chucker Jayson Reola started off strong as well, recording three ground ball outs as the game move into the second frame without a score.
The Bristol pitcher continued to throw gas as all three batters in the second inning were retired via strikeout – leading to five straight Ks.
Bristol’s Anthony Lozier reached base with one out in the second inning when he drew strike three but a passed ball gave the batter first base on the gaffe.
Alec DiLoreto then lined a single to left as the game’s first hit put two runners on with Jake Violette at the plate.
Violette then zipped a base hit to right, plating Lozier, as Post 2 nabbed a 1-0 edge in the contest.
A 4-6-3 double play ended the second inning with Bristol on top by a run.
Winsted’s Vinny Tancreti opened the third stanza with a walk as the visitors finally got a runner onboard.
Cam Wilhelm then dropped a sacrifice bunt Marquis ended up fielding but the ball was thrown away to first base as runners ended up at second and third with no one out.
Caleb Sphur whiffed for the first out but when Noah McDonald’s fly to right was caught, it was hit just far enough for Tancreti to tag home plate as the sacrifice tied things up at 1-1 apiece.
“The biggest play of the game for me was the bunt play,” said LaPenta. “I preach on bunt plays [that] turns little innings into big innings. Make the out there, there’s out one. Fly ball, [there’s] two outs [and] ground ball, end of inning, we’re still ahead 1-0.”
“And we had just scored and that’s another big thing. When we score, you’ve got to put up a donut. We had the momentum and we gave it right back.”
Post 43 loaded up the bases with one out in the top of the fourth as Joe Grantmeyer walked, Kevin Sullivan singled and when Mike Bobinski was hit-by-pitch, three ducks were on the pond.
Grantmeyer scored when a botched pickoff play at second base saw the ball squirt into center field as Winsted grabbed a 2-1 push in the fourth – leading for good from then on out.
But a nifty 5-4-3 double play, spearheaded by Mac Goulet at third base, did not allow another runner to cross the plate as Post 2 faced a one-run deficit going into the bottom of the fourth.
Goulet greeted Reola with a base hit to left and he moved to second base with one out as a pickoff play at first was thrown away.
But Goulet was thrown out attempting to swipe third base as Post 43 was leading by a 2-1 cushion going into the fifth tilt.
Noah McDonald then almost hit the ball to his farm as his double to left with two outs gave Winsted a runner in scoring position.
But one final K by Marquis put Bristol back at the plate.
DiLoreto opened the bottom of the fifth by dropping a little scribbler towards the third base side of the mound that was not playable and the home team was back in business.
But another double play, this time of the 5-4-3 variety, snuffed out the runner and going into the sixth, Winsted’s 2-1 lead was holding strong.
“We hit the ball hard,” said LaPenta. “[Reola] pitched a very good game. We squared some balls up but I knew it was going to be a close game and the team that blinked first was probably going to lose.”
Reola raced out an infield hit to shortstop and stole second to open the sixth with no one out.
Grantmeyer then tallied a single to left to put runners on the corners.
Marquis quickly punched out Sullivan for his eighth K of the game but an error in the infield plated Reola as Winsted racked up a 3-1 edge.
And Tancreti followed up with a bases clearing double to left and when two more runners scored, Post 43’s cushion reached 5-1.
Wilhelm then raced out an infield hit to short and runners were stationed at first and second with one out.
But Marquis collected his ninth and final strikeout of the afternoon before Alex Balfour relieved the starting pitcher and retired the final batter of the sixth.
Mike Lemke raced out an infield hit as Bristol got something going in the sixth but was cut down on a Cory Fradette fielder’s choice.
Fradette advanced to second on a passed ball and later stole third.
And the runner scored on Noah Plantamuro’s sacrifice fly to center as Bristol chopped the deficit to 5-2.
Goulet then struck out but made it to first safely via a passed ball and Ryan Greene was up at the plate.
But Greene flew to center to end the sixth as Winsted carried its three-run lead into the seventh and final inning.
Balfour pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh and Bristol had to tack a few runs on the board to force extra innings.
Steve Warkoski pitch-hit for Lozier in the bottom of the seventh and grounded out but DiLoreto walked as Post 2 was looking to rally.
But the third double play of the game ended the contest as Winsted came away with a 5-2 road win.
“I think part of it is we haven’t lost a game yet,” said LaPenta. “Between graduation, we had a few days off. We had an exhibition game [against Wallingford] cancelled. Sometimes, a loss is not the worst thing. We’ve been playing a little bit like we can’t lose and like we just expect to win. You know, you’ve got to come out and got to play. I told them I’m curious to see how they respond tomorrow [against Wolcott]. It’s a good character test.”
NOTES…And Bristol past that test against Wolcott with a 4-0 win from Muzzy Field on Tuesday, June 26. Ethan Ryan, Fradette, and Kenny Knox Jr. threw a combined four-hit shutout. Post 2 notched a run in the fourth and three more in the fifth to secure the victory. The win moved Bristol to 8-1-1 overall this season.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.