Baseball: Spartans get their revenge against Rams

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL – When the Bristol Central baseball squad belted Maloney 22-3 on opening day, the Spartans might have been looking more than a little forward to the rematch against the Rams on Wednesday, April 17 from Bristol.

And the Spartans got its revenge as the team – behind a go-ahead home run by senior Elliott Good – racked up a 4-3 win in nine innings from McCooey Field at Bristol Central high school.

Good also came in to pitch the final three innings, earning the win in the process.

The chucker struck out three and closed the door on the Rams.

Maloney starter John Vumback pitched six-plus innings and only faltered late in the game off a very good, no-decision effort.

He struck out five and allowed three runs on four total hits.

Owen Papciak had three hits for Maloney, drew a walk, and slapped out a sacrifice fly for two RBI.

Good ended the contest 2-for-2 with the homer, an infield single and three walks.

“They were very dangerous,” said Central coach Bunty Ray of Good and Papciak from the plate. “They stepped up. They were tough outs.”

Central starting pitcher Alec DiLoreto (three strikeouts) walked the first batter and then hit the next to open the top of the first inning.

A wild pitch advanced the runners and another ball thrown away scored one to make it a 1-0 contest.

Another base on balls put runners on the corners and a sacrifice fly by Papciak notched the second run for Maloney and quickly, it was 2-0 – all without the benefit of a hit.

“You have a team who obviously has revenge on their minds,” said Ray. “And you go out and give them life by spotting them two runs right away on no hits. Now all of a sudden, you press because you should be really beating a team you beat the first time. That’s not how it works.”

But Central got its first ups and with two gone, Jake Santiago (single, double, two RBI) hit a hot-shot to third base that was misplayed and then another error – at that same infield position off the bat of Jaylen Dias – put men on first and second.

One final fly-ball out then ended the first with the Rams still trailing by a couple runs.

Vumback opened the second inning with a rip to left field but the Spartans offense was retired from there to keep it a 2-0 game.

Gavin Greger (2-for-3, double, RBI, two walks) dropped in a one-hopper to lead off the bottom of the second and stole second base with two outs on board.

But Greger never advanced any further as the Spartans were ahead by two runs through two completed frames.

DiLoreto opened the third with a strikeout and but yielded a one-out walk to Good as another Maloney scoring opportunity was in the works.

Papciak followed up with a deep double to center to clear the bases as Maloney led 3-0 to that point of the encounter.

“That team is much improved,” said Ray of Maloney. “The first time we played them, it was just like an anomaly. Everything just went our way. And I watched their scores, I watched that pitcher [Vumback] and what he’s done to some quality teams and they were right there. And that was my biggest fear, [to] let them get off early and to all of a sudden, we just press, flatten out and try to do too much and not be able to get on the board for four innings.”

“That was a recipe for disaster.”

With two gone in the bottom of the third frame, Santiago jammed a base hit up the middle to start a rally but Vumback recorded a K to end the third as Maloney still led it by three.

And then the Maloney chucker led off the fourth with a walk as the visitors were back at it again.

Another base-on-balls put runners on first and second with one out but no damage was done while Central’s Evan Bouchard earned a walk to begin the bottom of the fourth.

Mike Lorenzetti then came in to pinch hit with two outs and his drive to left was misplayed as the Rams had runners on first and third with the tying run at home plate.

But Nick Ruffino towered a fly-out as another inning came and went without Central generating a run.

Peyton Clark (no runs, three hits) then came into pitch for Central in the fifth and Good raced out a hit to shortstop as Maloney had another rally going.

Off a stolen base, another hit by Papciak had runners on the corners without the benefit of an out.

A fielder’s choice erased Papciak going to second for the first out and another ground-ball out did not allow the man from third to score once again with two men gone.

And Clark generated a strikeout to snuff out the inning as Central was still hanging around, trailing 3-0 with the top of the Central order due up in the bottom of the fifth.

Brown was robbed of a Texas leaguer to short center and DiLoreto grounded out to short but Santiago was hit-by-pitch as he reached base for the third straight time in the game.

Dias then slapped a ball straight to the left fielder as the Rams were held scoreless through five completed frames.

“Their outfield really made every play,” said Ray of Maloney. “I don’t think we challenged them. I think the only ball I saw that was well struck was from Jake and every other hit, the ball was not carrying. For us to continue to swing uphill…I think the worst thing was when we got 2-0 counts and we didn’t hit hard pitches in those situations. We chased pitches out of the zone. We didn’t square up any balls.”

Clark held the fort in the sixth as he retired six straight and the Rams were desperate for runs.

Vumback was going strong into the sixth inning as Maloney was rolling with its starting ace but things were about to change.

Bouchard was plunked by the first pitch he saw and all of a sudden, Central had some life.

A wild pitch put the runner in scoring position, Greger then slammed a double over the centerfielder’s head and when Bouchard scored, the deficit was cut to 3-1 and the tying run was at the plate.

But three putouts later, the Spartans entered the final frame ahead 3-1 on the scoreboard.

With one out and a man on second, Central intentionally walked Papciak but an infield hit loaded the bases for Maloney.

A pop-up resulted in the second out and Ruffino fielded a nice ball at second to end the Maloney at-bats as the Spartans left 10 men on base to that point of the contest and opportunity also came and went for Maloney.

And for the fourth time in the game, Central had the top of the order up.

This time around, Central finally got to Vumback.

Brown reached a full-count in his at-bat and just squeaked a single by the second basemen as the Rams had something brewing.

DiLoreto reached a 3-0 count before the Maloney head coach made a trip to the mound to reset the defense.

And DiLoreto walked as the go-ahead run was at the plate and the meat of Central’s order was due up.

Santiago then blasted a loud double to center – clearing the bases of Brown and DiLoreto – as Central scored two runs and it was a brand new game at 3-3.

“I thought Jake got a big hit and kind of woke us up,” said Ray. “But I kind of was disappointed in the way everyone didn’t rally around that. It was kind of fractured today. Usually, hitting’s contagious, the energy level is there…but it looked like we were waiting for somebody else to make a play. Nobody took upon themselves until Jake got that big hit.”

“Greger also got a big hit as well. Those are two guys that play a lot of baseball and I expect them to step up but there were a lot of situations at the bottom of the line-up that could have produced runs but we just didn’t.”

With Good the new pitcher on the mound for Maloney, Dias was intentionally walked and Bouchard reached the batter’s box with men on first and second with no one out in the bottom of the seventh.

Bouchard flew out to short center for the first out before Greger reached a full-court.

An eight-pitch at-bat ended with a walk and the bases were loaded for Rodriguez.

He flew out to short center and Spencer Lindroth earned a pinch-hit spot with ducks in the pond and a chance to end the game.

But he swung at strike three as Maloney somehow snuck out of the frame tied at 3-3 with extra innings on the horizon.

Greger came into throw for Central in the eighth and besides hitting a batter, Maloney did little against the freshman and the Rams were looking for one run to win it.

DiLoreto snuck out a single to left to get onboard with two gone in the eighth but that elusive run remained elusive as the game reached the ninth and final stanza.

And then Good led off the ninth tilt with his home run to left as the Spartans secured a 4-3 lead.

“Gavin is fearless on the mound but sometimes you’ve got to give in a little bit and I think he gave [Good] a pitch where he tried to challenge him but he got behind him,” said Ray.

Off that round-tripper, the Maloney pitcher then had a chance to win the game for his team on the mound.

Greger earned a two-out walk off Good but one final strikeout ended the game as Maloney came away with a huge 4-3 win from Bristol Central.

“Tip your cap to Elliot Good,” said Ray. “He hits a homer but then he also comes in and shuts the door on the mound. Really, he was the difference-maker. That’s what you want your good players to do.”

NOTES…Central rallied the following day by defeating Farmington 14-9 from Tunxis Mead in Farmington.

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