By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MANCHESTER – When it comes to the Connecticut Twilight League playoffs, it always boils down to the match-ups.
The East Hampton Royals are a quality crew that gave the Bristol Knights some real problems during regular season play this year.
However, the squad from Bristol was built for the postseason and those regular season contests were a thing of the past come Thursday, Aug. 9 when the teams squared off in the CTL playoffs.
In the end, the Knight’s Chris McGrath went the distance on the mound, Kyle Pileski’s two RBI doubles were the biggest hits of the game while Bristol’s defense was sharp from start to finish over its 4-2 win against the No. 3 Royals from Mount Nebo Park in Manchester.
The second ranked Knights (19-7-1) moved on in the winner’s bracket and took on No. 6 Brickhouse Indians on Monday, Aug. 13.
McGrath dictated a slow, deliberate pace and stayed in front of batters the entire evening while his defense snuffed out extra base-runners – especially late in the showdown.
“They were great today,” said McGrath of his defense behind him. “Rick Barrett was great, turning that double play. We had Georgie [Santiago] out in left field snagging everything out there. It was great.”
But the Royals’ Jakari Pellegrini (four runs, four hits, 6 Ks) also showed some grit and Bristol batters had to be patient at the dish against the pitcher.
And when it came time to hit, Pileski had big answers as his back-to-back RBI doubles put the squad ahead in the game both early and late.
“His two doubles were our offense,” said McGrath of Pileski’s hits. “We got some guys on base and he just roped a couple doubles to bring them in.”
In the top of the first, Pellegrini smacked a one-out hit to center while Kenny Noyola slipped in a single to right to put two runners on.
But Adam Michaud flew out as the Knights got its first at-bats of the affair.
Georgie Santiago legged out a grounder to shortstop that was eventually booted and Bristol had a runner on.
Kyle Lentini followed up with a walk and Pileski then drilled a ball to the gap in right as his two-base hit plated Santiago and the Knights drew first blood at 1-0.
With two runners in scoring position, Barrett dropped a Texas leaguer into shallow center – scoring Lentini – but Pileski was caught out at third base for the second out of the inning.
And when Justin Martella’s pop-up eventually led to out number three, Bristol was ahead on the scoreboard 2-0.
In the second inning, Knights’ shortstop Tommy Stagis made a barehanded grab of a Zach Turner offering, getting the runner out at first base while Barrett, at third base, snared Scott Lufbery’s line-drive to end the second frame for the Royals.
Bristol had a quiet bottom of the second frame but going into the third, it was still a 2-0 push in the Knights’ favor.
McGrath retired six straight batters before Justin Lawson hustled out an infield hit to short in the third and later stole second to get into scoring position.
Pellegrini walked to put two on with two outs and then the duo executed a double steal.
And it appeared as Martella’s throw to third got Lawson but the runner ended up safe and later scored on a passed ball to chop the deficit to 2-1.
Then Pellegrini got caught in a rundown and Barrett chased him to home plate.
But Pellegrini bumped into Martella – who did not have the ball – and off the interference call – his run tied the thing up at 2-2.
Tyler Gibbs struck out on a ball that was fouled tipped but the Royals were back in it.
“When they tied it up, that did put us back on our heels a little bit,” said McGrath. “But we fought through.”
Santiago drew a walk with one out in the bottom of the third – later stealing second – to give Lentini a runner to drive in.
But he instead earned a base-on-balls and put two on for the crafty Pileski.
He then jammed another two-base hit to center, scoring Santiago once again, as Bristol reassumed the lead at 3-2.
“Kyle came through with a big double again,” said McGrath. “It put us back in the lead for good.”
And Lentini scored when Barrett’s fly to left was caught for the second out but the sacrifice produced another run – making it 4-2 through three completed tilts.
Noyola started it off for the Royals in the fourth with a sizzler past Barrett at third for a base hit.
But a 5-4-3 double play, with second baseman John Blais in the middle of those putouts, got Bristol out of some serious trouble.
Jeff Durso later singled with two away but when Turner popped out foul, Martella recorded the final out and Bristol’s 4-2 push was the score of the contest.
The Knights had the bottom of its order up in the fourth and Pellegrini picked up strikeouts four and five before Ross flew out to center as the Royals were looking to play catch-up in the fifth.
Brian Kohn zipped up a one-out walk and moved to second base on a ground out.
With the top of the order up and a runner in scoring position, Lawson struck out to end the frame and Bristol’s 4-2 edge continued to be the score of the outing.
Pellegrini had another solid inning in the fifth, retiring eight straight, and to open the sixth, he drew a walk and the Royals had the tying run at the dish once again.
Santiago then made three straight putouts in left as Gibbs, Noyola, and Adam Michaud all flew out to end the Royal’s portion of the sixth inning.
Pellegrini retired 10 straight but with one out in the sixth, Bristol tried to add an insurance run.
Barrett walked, Martella cracked a single up the middle and when Rex Cone finally got an at-bat in the game, he was plunked by a pitch in the arm to load the bases.
Stagis struck out on a full count and Ross hit a come-backer to Pellegrini on the mound as Bristol still led 4-2 with the Royals down to its final three outs.
McGrath quickly closed out the game with a 1-2-3 inning as the Knights moved on to the winner’s bracket in the two run victory over the Knights.
“See you Monday,” said McGrath, referring to the winner’s bracket contest.
NOTES…In the nightcap, the Brickhouse Indians pulled off a big 6-1 upset over the Chicago Sam’s Orioles to get a shot at the Knights in the winner’s bracket.
Connecticut Twilight League – Tournament Scores
Single Elimination Round – Monday, Aug. 6
No. 7 Loco Perro Expos 2, No. 10 Singing Surgeons 1 – from Rec Park, Willimantic
*The Surgeons were eliminated from tournament play
No. 9 Wethersfield Dodgers 6, No. 8 Willimantic Ridges 2 – from Rec Park, Willimantic
*The Ridges were eliminated from tournament play
Double Elimination Bracket – Monday, Aug. 6
No. 3 East Hampton Royals 1, No. 6 Elmer’s Angels 0 – from Mount Nebo, Manchester
No. 5 Brickhouse Indians 4, No. 4 Glastonbury Pirates 3 – from Mount Nebo, Manchester
Double Elimination Bracket – Tuesday, Aug. 7
*All games – until the finals – were played at Mount Nebo
No. 6 Elmer’s Angels 2, No. 7 Loco Perro Expos 0
Double Elimination Bracket – Wednesday, Aug. 8
No. 9 Wethersfield Dodgers 2, No. 4 Glastonbury Pirates 0
*The fourth rated Pirates were upset twice and eliminated. No. 7 Loco Perro Expos were also eliminated.
Double Elimination Bracket – Thursday, Aug. 9
No. 2 Bristol Knights 4, No. 3 East Hampton Royals 2
No. 5 Brickhouse Indians 6, No. 1 Chicago Sam’s Orioles 1 (?)
*Bristol moved on to the winners bracket to face the Brickhouse Indians on Monday, Aug. 13.
Double Elimination Bracket – Friday, Aug. 10
No. 1 Chicago Sam’s Orioles 2, No. 6 Elmer’s Angels 1
No. 3 East Hampton Royals 4, No. 9 Wethersfield Dodgers 3
Championship Week – Monday, Aug. 13
No. 5 Brickhouse Indians vs. No. 2 Bristol Knights
No. 1 Chicago Sam’s Orioles vs. No. 3 East Hampton Royals
*The winner of the Indians/Knights qualified for the CTL Championship round. The victor of the Orioles/Royals had to play the loser of Indians/Knights in order to qualify for the championship round. The championship, for the first time, took place from Muzzy Field in Bristol on Wednesday, Aug. 15 and Thursday, Aug. 16 if necessary.
Connecticut Twilight League – Playoff seeding via Regular Season
Team Record Points Seed
Chicago Sam’s Orioles 20-6 40 1
Bristol Knights 18-7-1 37 2
*Both the Orioles and Knights received automatic byes for winning their respective divisions.
Team Record Points Seed
East Hampton Royals 17-8 34 3
Glastonbury Pirates 17-9 34 4
Brickhouse Indians 14-11 28 5
Elmer’s Angels 12-11-2 26
*Those four teams earned the right to start in the double elimination bracket.
Team Record Points Seed
Loco Perro Expos 12-12-2 26 7
Willimantic Ridges 8-15-1 17 8
Wethersfield Dodgers 5-21 9 9
Singing Surgeons 1-24 2 10
*The final four teams had to battle out of the single elimination portion of the tournament.
BRISTOL KNIGHTS 4, ROYALS 2
from Mount Nebo Park, Manchester
Royals 002 000 0 – 2 5 1
Knights 202 000 0 – 4 4 0
Battery: Royals – Jakari Pellegrini & Tyler Gibbs; Bristol – Chris McGrath & Justin Martella.
WP – Chris McGrath (Bristol)
LP – Jakari Pellegrini (Royals)
2B – None
3B – None
HR – None
2B – Kyle Pileski (2)
3B – None
HR – None
Records: Bristol 19-7-1 overall; Royals 18-9