OLD LYME – Looking for a third straight win in CIAC Class L tournament play, 30th rated Bristol Central was hanging tough against No. 14 East Lyme in a second round war on Thursday, May 30.
Tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Vikings tallied three huge runs to eliminate the Rams, 4-1, from East Lyme high school.
“The big inning has plagued us all year,” said Central coach Bunty Ray.
Central ended its season at 10-13 while East Lyme improved to 14-8 overall.
The Vikings were solid from top to bottom and when the squad’s leadoff hitter nailed a home run to open the bottom of the first inning, the Rams were trailing off the bat.
“That’s a very gritty team,” said Ray of East Lyme. “And when they come out and punch you in the mouth and hit a home run to start the game, when you’re on the road, and you’ve barely gotten off the bus and your down one [run], you don’t know which way it’s going to go.”
But the Rams eventually responded to tie the thing up.
Central ended the contest with two hits while East Lyme just needed one to capture a quick edge in the contest.
The Vikings leadoff hitter, Chris Malcom, just lifted a Kyle Lauretti pitch over the fence in left as the home team nabbed a 1-0 lead.
But the chucker was solid over four excellent innings of work (one run, four hits) as he picked up a no-decision for his efforts.
East Lyme’s Trystan Levesque later belted a two-base hit to right but ended up stranded as Central got out of the inning down just a run.
The Rams once again went down in order in the second and East Lyme was right back to work in the bottom of the tilt.
Joseph Grubb reached base via error and Drew Menghi slapped a single to right to put two on.
But Malcom popped out as the Central defense ended the threat.
However, the Rams weren’t able to put a number on the board as the 1-0 edge by the Vikings was holding firm over the third stanza.
Lauretti got into a bit groove in the third inning as East Lyme went down in order.
“Kyle did a good job of just stopping” the spiral said Ray of Lauretti. “That just shows he’s been growing over the season. At the end of the year, he’s just become one of our best pitchers. That’s why he got this start today.”
With two gone in the fourth, the Rams finally got on the scoreboard.
Central’s Jay Dias drew strike three but the ball got by the catcher as the batter arrived safely at first base.
Dias moved to second on a wild pitch, a passed ball got him to third, and the tying run was mere feet from the plate.
And Gavin Greger made that run happen as he dropped a double into deep center with Dias easily scoring and it was a brand new game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the frame, East Lyme’s Jake Schelkly sent a liner just out of reach of the first baseman’s head and the leadoff batter was on.
But three fly-outs later – two tracked down by Alec DiLoreto in left field – the game went into the fifth with the 1-1 stalemate intact.
Central was nearly out of that fifth inning in a jiffy as Rodriguez’s fly-ball was caught in foul territory by East Lyme’s Marshall Thomas Mason – seeing the fielder literally flipping over the fence, landing on his feet outside of the ball park but still holding on to the ball for the out.
One out later, Lauretti hustled out a ground-ball to third base as he leapt into the air, avoiding the tag, and the first baseman dropped the ball for an error.
Pinch runner Victor Rosa ended up stealing second but Nick Ruffino struck out to end the inning.
Greger came in to relive Lauretti as Central posted another 1-2-3 inning and the game entered the sixth stanza still tied up at 1-1.
And the Rams got right to work in the sixth as leadoff batter Austin Brown singled to right to start a rally.
But a slick 5-4-3 double play snuffed out all the runners and then Dias was robbed of an infield hit via a slick grab and putout as the Vikings had its chance to seize the lead in the bottom of the sixth.
“The pitcher [Levesque] was good but let’s talk about their defense,” said Ray of East Lyme. “They made a diving catch in centerfield. The left fielder jumps over the fence. The diving play at third to throw the double play off. The diving play at shortstop…I mean the list goes on of all the plays that they made.”
“They were just spectacular.”
Levesque led the sixth tilt off with a four-pitch walk and East Lyme had its go-ahead runner on.
Thomas-Mason popped out foul for the first out but Levesque swiped second to get into scoring position.
And Schelkly dropped a one-hopper into short center as the home squad had runners on the corners with just one out.
Nolan Connolly then smoked a ball to right for a base hit – plating Levesque – and when Jake Santiago didn’t field the ball cleanly on the throw into home, another run scored to make it a 3-1 game in the Viking’s favor.
Another error allowed runners to reach first and third and on a squeeze bunt by Ethan Toback, the final run scored to make it 4-1.
Toback then quickly stole second to get two runners in scoring position.
And two outs later, Central got out of the jam had its final ups in the seventh, trailing by three runs.
But that rally never came and the Rams bowed out of the 2019 campaign with a 10-13 record – a solid three-game improvement from last season – as East Lyme advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Class L bracket behind the 4-1 victory.
“When they get on you and you allow base runners, they’re going to be able to move guys around,” said Ray of East Lyme. “They manufactured some runs. They capitalized on every mistake that we made. You’ve got to play out of your head to beat a team like that. And unfortunately, we made a few mistakes.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.