Baseball: Eastern players all contribute

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL – If each and every player contributes something for the Bristol Eastern baseball team this year, good things are bound to happen.

And that was exactly the case in the Lancers opening bout on Wednesday, April 3 as Eastern scored 10 consecutive runs to defeat Plainville 10-3 in a CCC South, Patriot Division tilt from Clem J. Roy Field in Bristol.

It was the first game of the campaign for both squads.

Eastern wrangled up 12 hits as six different players nabbed at least one hit while several other players put the ball in play – leading to run scoring plays – making the Lancers 2019 debut a successful one.

“Top to bottom [produced], absolutely. That’s what we’re looking for, that’s what we need,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We don’t want anybody to be a star. We want everybody to be a contributor.”

Jack Kozikowski did it all from the plate for Eastern, going 4-for-4 with two runs scored.

Ian Latko went 2-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored while Noah Hickey was 3-of-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.

Carson Sassu, Anthony Marrotti, and James Dauphinee (double, two RBI) all generated hits for the Lancers.

Devan Jacques had two walks – one leading to an RBI tally – while Matt D’Amato was hit by a pitch and later scored a run.

Eastern chucker Jagger Duquette was hit early in the game but quickly regained his form and cruised over his outing – earning the win in six innings of action.

He gave up two runs, allowed five hits but fanned six batters, and walking only one to secure the win.

Ethan Ryan mopped up in the seventh, striking out two, allowing one hit and a single run.

Plainville pitcher Nate Johnson, starting his first varsity contest for the program, allowed seven runs on six hits and walked five over 1.2 innings of work, drawing the loss.

“I told Nate ‘Today doesn’t define you,’” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville of Johnson. “I have to give credit. Bristol Eastern swung the bats well and they stayed in there on every pitch. They stayed in there on fastballs, they did a great job staying in there on the breaking balls and using the middle of the field.”

“They didn’t pull out of much. They were disciplined up there and didn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches.”

Plainville’s Brady Callahan, the team’s leadoff batter, generated two hits and made some things happen on the bases for the Blue Devils.

He went 2-of-4 overall to lead the visiting outfit.

“When Brady gets on base, he’s a nuisance,” said Mandeville of Callahan. “We’ve seen his speed in other sports that he’s played in at the high school. It’s amazing what happens when he gets on base. The hitters behind him, it kind of focuses them in. They stay on the baseball longer and don’t try to do too much.”

Alec Couture added an RBI double while Tyler Bonney bashed out a triple in the fourth inning but did not come around to score.

And Plainville got on the board quickly with two runs in the top the first inning.

Callahan started it off with a deep infield single to shortstop and on a slick hit-and-run with Tyler St. Onge, runners were on the corners with no one out.

And then Alec Couture sliced a screamer past the bag at third base and as the ball scooted into left, Callahan and St. Onge scored as the two-RBI tally made it a 2-0 contest with Eastern due up.

The Lancers then scored three runs on a two-out rally with a runner on first base.

Kozikowski dropped a single to left with one gone but was still on first with two outs on the board.

Hickey slipped in a pop-up that just fell safely in short left-center field for a hit and when Marrotti walked, the bases were loaded.

Latko followed up by smoking a single up the middle, plating both Kozikowski and Hickey, as the contest was quickly knotted at 2-2.

Jim Dauphinee then walked to reload the bases and when Jacques drew ball four in his at-bat, Marrotti was forced in and Eastern took the lead for good – at 3-2 – through one completed inning.

The Blue Devils went down in order in the second stanza and quickly, the Lancers went back to work.

With one gone, Kozikowski singled to get on again and Hickey followed suit with a base hit as the Lancers were threatening again.

The duo advanced a base via steals and when Marrotti walked again, Eastern was looking to score with the bases juiced.

And Latko provided a hit once again as his single to center scored Kozikowski and Hickey to put Eastern in front 5-2.

“We kept our poise,” said Giovinazzo. “We were swinging really well all day.”

However, the Lancers weren’t done.

With runners on the corners, Dauphinee slammed a long double to center – clearing the bases – and Eastern was in charge 7-2.

And when Jacques walked for the second time in the game, Johnson’s night on the mound was over.

Tyler Dufour came into throw with two outs in the second inning for Plainville, getting the final out, but the Blue Devils were trailing by five going into the top of the third.

Duquette cruised into the frame, retiring eight in a row, before walking Couture.

But a slick 3-1 fielding play – with the Eastern pitcher making the put-out at first – kept the Lancers’ edge at 7-2 going up to the plate.

Carson Sassu was the first leadoff hitter for Eastern to get on base – outrunning an offering in between first and second base that simply died in the field and the speedy catcher was on.

Kozikowski was then 3-for-3 as his single reached left field and when Matt D’Amato was hit-by-pitch, the bases were quickly juiced.

Hickey drew strike three before Marrotti flew out to left for the second out of inning.

But Sassu scored off the Marrotti drive as the sacrifice fly made it an 8-2 contest with the Lancers firmly in charge.

Bonney infused a little excitement into the game in the fourth tilt as he sliced a shot to left, hustling all the way to third base for a triple and was in scoring position with one gone.

But Duquette fanned Alex Grabowski and D’Amato made a slick grab of a pop-up by Dufour and it was still an 8-2 contest midway through the fourth.

St. Onge earned his second hit of the night in the fifth inning when he bounced a ball off Duquette to reach first base safely.

But one groundout later saw the Lancers keep its six-run cushion intact.

And Kozikowski made it 4-for-4 with an infield hit to third as Eastern was on the attack in the fifth inning.

Hickey then slapped a double to second for an RBI tally and when Marrotti added an RBI single to the fray, Eastern held an imposing 10-2 push with two gone in the fifth.

Duquette ended the sixth with his fifth consecutive shutout inning – completing his stint on the mound with his sixth K of the day.

Trevor Mays and Alex Valley did a little pinch-hitting for the Lancers in the bottom of the sixth for Eastern but down to its final three outs, Plainville would have to face reliever Ethan Ryan in the seventh.

Callahan managed an RBI infield single to cut the deficit to 10-3 but Plainville couldn’t get any closer to the lead – falling by seven in the end.

And after trailing by two and scoring 10 straight runs in a well played affair, it was a positive start for the Lancers.

“It’s very good,” said Giovinazzo of the win. “I can’t complain. We did something in every phase of the game well.”

Even in the losing effort, there were plenty of positives for the Blue Devils to take out of the game.

“We’re confident,” said Mandeville. “Our guys swung it well in scrimmages and we feel good. Today, we put the ball in play a little bit. We didn’t have a lot of strikeouts. We just need [the opponents] to pick the ball up and throw it. It’s amazing what will happen.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.