By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WEST HARTFORD – Even as the Bristol Central baseball squad dropped a heart-wrenching 1-0 decision at Hall High school from West Hartford on Thursday, April 10, the locals have improved drastically from last season by leaps and bounds.
And the Rams were simply one hit away from breaking the game open but just couldn’t get the tally to fall.
But in the end, Daniel Hussey’s RBI single in the seventh inning proved to be the dagger – leading the Warriors to the one-run victory.
The loss broke Central’s two-game winning streak (2-1) while Hall moved to 2-3 overall.
Central displayed balance in pitching, offense, and defense – doing everything right except winning the game in the end.
“I don’t think we really lost,” said Central coach Bunty Ray. “I think they beat us if that makes sense.”
Central sophomore pitcher Sean Wininger was sensational in defeat, deserving a better fate over his one-run, two-hit, seven strikeout, six-plus inning plight – losing a tough one in the end.
“It’s too bad he picks up the loss there because he’s done a real good job,” said Ray. “His pitch count was getting a little bit higher, [Hall] saw him three times through the line-up so we thought we’d make a change. But he was outstanding.”
“He got his curveball going, he threw fastballs for strikes, he backed up pitches [and] I thought he did a great job.”
Gavin Greger (0-1) drew the loss for Central on the mound.
Jaylen Dias – who saw time this past summer with the Plainville American Legion baseball squad – led the charge with two singles.
Alec DiLoreto, Jake Santiago, Evan Bouchard, and Nick Ruffino all tabled hits for the Rams.
The Warriors’ defense was outstanding and when Central slapped the ball all over the field – especially to the outfield – it was usually hit right at someone.
The Hall right fielder, Will Gaumer, robbed DiLoreto of an extra-base hit in the first inning with a brilliant diving catch for an out but Santiago smoked a single past the shortstop to get a runner on.
However, Dias fell via strikes and the Warriors came up to bat.
Wininger was smooth to start, striking the final two batters of the first inning, as the scoreless game went into the second frame.
Peyton Clark earned a two-out walk to keep the inning alive for Central in the second and a wild pitch saw the runner go all the way to third with Howard Rebhun at the plate.
Rebhun struck out to end the threat but the Warriors went three-up and three-down as Wininger was perfect through two frames.
Ruffino started the third with a sharp single passed second and when Austin Brown grounded out to first, the lead runner was in scoring position.
But there would be no further advancement as Hall wriggled out of the jam and Wininger was back on the mound.
In the third, Central’s sophomore chucker picked up strikeout three and four as the stanza came to swift conclusion.
Dias dropped a one-hopper in right to open the fourth inning as Victor Rosa came in to pinch-run.
Evan Bouchard snuck a single through the hole at shortstop and quickly, it was first and second with no-one out.
However, that first run never came to pass.
Gavin Greger followed up by towering a fly-ball to centerfield for the first out and as Rosa attempted to take third off the catch, the throw beat the speedy runner to the bag for a double-play.
Bouchard then made it to second off a passed ball but was stranded there in the end.
Wininger continued throwing strikes to open the bottom of the fourth and even off Hall’s second hit of the afternoon, no damage was done.
Ruffino reached first with one gone in the fifth inning as the shortstop threw wide of the bag, leading to an error.
And DiLoreto came through with a hit to centerfield and, once again, two men were on the bases for Central.
Santiago ended the half-inning by blasting a ball straight to the right fielder as the 0-0 affair dragged into the bottom of the fifth.
A nine-pitch fifth by Wininger saw him rack up his seventh strikeout of the game and once again, the Rams were looking to break the event open with a run.
Dias had a seven-pitch at-bat, ending it with a single to center, and when Mike Lorenzetti came in to pinch run, Central tried a little small-ball but a wild pitch eventually saw the runner advance to second with no one out.
And then another outfield-infield double play foiled the visitors.
Bouchard flew out to mid-right field and on the catch, Lorenzetti was off to third.
But an on-the-money throw saw Lorenzetti tagged out at third and another possible scoring chance came and went for the Rams.
“They made two perfect throws to cut down guys at third base with less than two outs. Two perfect throws,” said Ray of Hall. “Their pitcher, you know, he got big outs when he needed to but we also drove the ball all over the place. I mean, we were hitting line drives, just right at people.”
Hall went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth as Central retired nine straight batters and the Warriors offense had just two singles – and zero runs – off Wininger through six.
The seventh was the only inning Central did not have a base-runner on as three strikeouts put Hall in a position to win the game off a single run.
But, the final at-bats for the Warriors were about to unfold without the Rams making a putout.
Hall’s pitcher was plunked by the ball and a sacrifice bunt put the lead runner on second in scoring position.
Quickly, Greger took over for Wininger one pitch into the next at-bat as Jake Sassu took over in centerfield for Central.
Greger’s first pitch went a bit short of the plate as the runner moved to third with one out via the wild pitch.
Ray decided to intentionally walk the next batter to put runners on the corners.
From there, Hussey slapped out the game-winning as his RBI-single propelled Hall to the 1-0 win.
“Unfortunately, you look up at the scoreboard and it says it’s the seventh inning and you wondered what happened but that’s baseball.”
One short year ago, Central started the season 1-4, moved to .500 three games later but never got over the hump again.
But with the kind of effort the Rams showed at Hall, Central is going to be in many more game this season with chances to win several of those engagements throughout the year.
“We didn’t make any mistakes,” said Ray. “We didn’t do anything wrong except one passed ball. That’s it. The passed ball moved the runner over [and] put us in a tough predicament at that point.”
“It’s early in the season. We’ve just got to move on.”
NOTES…Central came right back with a 5-0 win against Newington the following day. The Rams finished the week at 3-1 overall.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.