By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The Bristol Knights are in the thick of things in Connecticut Twilight League play again, near the top of the standings.
Through 11 games, the Knights sat in third place of the CTL with a 6-4-1 record, two points behind the newly minted Fat Orange Cat Brewers for first place.
The Brewers have 15 points while the Knights were hanging in with 13 (it’s two points for a win and one point for a tie in CTL play).
At the midpoint of the season, the Knights’ played on its biggest stage of the year.
On Saturday, June 29, the Connecticut Twilight League took part in the 4th annual CTL Summer Classic.
After the first classic was held from the baseball field at Central Connecticut State University, the games were shifted to Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford – the crown jewel stadium of Connecticut and all of Double A baseball.
The Knights took on longtime rival Elmer’s Angels at the home of the Yard Goats in the middle of five games contested that day.
In all, over 12 hours of CTL baseball were played on Saturday as all ten teams were in action.
At the Dunkin’ Donuts Park game, the Knights also debuted a new jersey.
The team made ‘Bristol Red Sox’ tribute jerseys that will be worn for the remainder or the season.
Much of the design and style was made as a throwback to the old Bristol Double A Red Sox Minor League team while still keeping a Bristol Knights feel.
The Knights, even with the loss of four players to the expansion Southington Aftershock, have maintained its high level of success and through the 13-mile mark of the marathon season, CTL president – and former Bristol Knights founder and coach –Scott Dickens handed out some midseason grades for the squad.
Offense Grade: B+
Runs per game: 6.0 (66 runs scored, 1st place in the CTL)
Batting Average: .299 (1st)
On base plus Slugging percentage: .725 (3rd)
Walks to strikeouts: 0.45 (8th)
The Knights offense has continued to be one of the best in the league on a yearly basis.
Bristol, once again, ranks near the top in most major offensive categories.|
The obvious bright spots offensively in the Bristol lineup are Julio Ortiz-Rivera, Justin Martella, Rick Barrett, Ben Mazzone, Steve Clout, and Marco Ross.
Those six have been very consistent from the plate and some are long-time members of the team.
However, credit must go to Joe Dalton, Casey Barter, Georgie Santiago, and Kyle Pileski for their clutch play and solid on-field performances.
This team always displays great depth and a tremendous ability – never missing a beat.
“Simply put, the whole team is relentless,” said Dickens.
Runs allowed per game: 3.81 (42 overall, 7th)
Earned Run Average: 2.68 (7th)
Walks plus hits per inning: 1.18 (6th)
Strikeouts to walks: 2.15 (6th)
“[The] Knights starting pitching has left a lot to be desired,” said Dickens. “They rank just below average in most major statistical categories.”
The Knights have some experienced arms in the bullpen and all those numbers should improve before the conclusion of the campaign.
Bristol native Rob Bibisi has been a savior to the Knights pitching staff.
With a season of college ball under his belt, he has shown to be more than just an innings-eater on the hill.
His 1.00 WHIP trails only Bristol veteran Earl Oakes.
Speaking of Oakes, the crafty chucker has looked more like his old self, already putting up a complete game, two hit, nine K gem against the Southington Aftershock in a winning effort earlier this season.
The Knights pitching staff of Ross, Chris McGrath, Barrett, and Mazzone are looking to step it up during the second half of the year and into the playoffs.
Overall grade: B-
The Knights are swinging the bats with the best of them, as evident by Bristol’s winning record and offensive numbers, but still look for added improvement on the mound.
The veteran bunch has the ability to close out the second half with a flourish and get into the playoffs with an important first round bye.
The CTL league playoffs begin on August 5th.
Here’s the remaining Bristol Knights schedule:
Bristol Knights at Wethersfield Dodgers July 8 6 p.m. Wethersfield HS
Bristol Knights at WilliBrew Ridges July 12 7 p.m. Rec Park, Willy
Fat Orange Cat Brewers vs Knights July 16 6 p.m. Muzzy Field
WilliBrew Ridges vs. Bristol Knights July 18 8 p.m. Muzzy Field
Bristol Knights at Southington Aftershock July 19 6 p.m. Rec Park, South
Glastonbury Pirates vs. Bristol Knights July 23 7 p.m. Riverfront Park
Bristol Knights at Chicago Sam’s Orioles July 25 6 p.m. Rocky Hill HS