By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Back in August of 2015, Mac Goulet and Josh Nohilly were playing for Plainville’s entry in the Vantis Life Baseball League and helped the squad get to the postseason championship game.
Fast forward nearly four years later and the duo were at it again on Tuesday, July 2 for the Bristol Senior American Legion baseball team.
With Bristol entangled in a 1-1 stalemate against Zone 1 foe Southington, it was Goulet’s huge triple to left field that helped set the table while Nohilly dropped in the go-ahead hit into center as the RBI tally put Post 2 on top for good – leading the squad to a 3-1 win from Muzzy Field in Bristol.
And then for good measure, Evan Bouchard kicked in his own triple to score Nohilly as the insurance run put Post 72 down and out.
Post 2 made four errors in the game but Southington could only cash in on one of those gaffes.
“The first thing I said to the mound [after the game] I really praised Mac because he had a tough game (in the field),” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta of Goulet. “He could have hung his head and he didn’t. He got a big triple and [his defensive play to end the game at third base] was one tough play. Now, if he doesn’t make that play, [Southington] gets a run and with a guy on, who knows what happens.”
Bristol winning pitcher Alex Balfour, entering the contest with an 0.47 ERA, allowed a single unearned run as he threw 5.1 innings on the mound – keeping his troops in the game from start to finish.
He allowed just six hits, hit a batter but did not allow any other free passes.
“I thought Balfour did a great job,” said LaPenta of his starting pitcher. “His change-up was really working. He got a ton of ground balls and when he pitches, you’ve got to make plays. We didn’t make some plays, we had some errors, we gave Southington that first run.”
Jake Romano and Kyle Leifert each had two hits for Post 72 (9-4 overall).
Bouchard went 2-for-2 with a walk while Goulet was 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, an RBI, and one-run scored.
Three straight grounders opened the game for Southington but the last was legged out by Brendan Kavanaugh – making it safely to first base via and error.
Kyle Leifert then smashed out a single to right and a passed ball advanced the duo, giving Post 72 runners on second and third with two gone.
But when Sean Crean – battling a nine-pitch at-bat – smashed a ball to shortstop, the final out was recorded as Southington left to runners on base to start the showdown.
Bristol started its portion of the first with a Noah Plantamuro shot to the gap in right and off his double, he advanced to third base off a fly ball to left by Cory Fradette.
And then Fradette scored on a Mac Goulet fly-out to left as the sacrifice fly made it a 1-0 game through one inning of action.
Southington’s Ethan McDonough started the second with a base hit into left but a 6-4 fielder’s choice eliminated the lead runner.
And two ground-outs later, Post 72 had yet to score a run through one-and-a-half frames.
Evan Bouchard ran out an infield hit to shortstop with one out in the second inning and then, Southington’s Brendan Kavanagh made a diving catch in right – nearly doubling up Bouchard at first who was already halfway to third.
Alec DiLoreto then jammed a hot-shot to second base that was not playable – eventually stashing runners on second and third.
But Nick Ruffino flew out to left to end the inning as the two infield hits did not lead to another Post 2 run in the second, keeping it a 1-0 game.
Post 72 got something going in the third with one out when Jake Romano eked out an infield hit to short and when a scoop of Plantamuro’s throw to first was not made, the ball bounced away and the runner ended up at second off the error.
A passed ball got Romano to third and when Leifert smacked a ball into left, Post 72 scored as the unearned run made it a 1-1 game.
Bristol’s side was retired by Krar for the first time in order during the third tilt and going into the fourth, neither team held the advantage in the tired affair.
Southington tried to put something together off another Eastern fielding error in the fourth but Bryce Worth ended the frame by bouncing out to Balfour as the visitors left its fifth runner on base to that point of the showdown.
To open the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Greene smoked a single to left and then Josh noisily laid down a near perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line to advance the running into scoring position.Bouchard followed up with a hard-fought walk to put two on with one out.
But two straight outs later, the contest moved into the fifth inning with the score knotted at 1-1 and Southington’s top of the order coming to bat for the third time.
Post 72 opened by Brandon Kole getting to first base on an error and Romano singled by Plantamuro as two runners were on without the benefit of an out before the play of the game was made.
“I’ve told the guys all year long, I’ll never get mad about physical mistakes,” said LaPenta. “Errors and strikeouts are part of the game. Mental stuff is tough to shallow. The physical stuff is part of the game. It’s how you deal with it.”
Kavanagh tried to laydown a sacrifice bunt but popped it up to the mound.
Balfour made a diving play at it but dropped it.
However, Balfour whirled the ball to third to get the lead runner and Goulet then spun it to Plantamuro covering at second for the double play – giving Bristol a huge lift with two outs on the board.
Leifert couldn’t make it 3-for-3 as he grounded out to second as Bristol came away from a potential huge Southington inning with the game still tied up at 1-1.
But Post 2 could not respond and the contest was 1-1 going into the sixth stanza.
Crean was hit by the first pitch from Balfour in the sixth and Southington had something brewing again. He stole second with one out and pinch-hitter Jeremy Mericer singled to right to put runners on the corners – ending Balfour’s night with 74 pitches thrown.
Fradette came into throw, attempting to get Bristol out of the jam.
Mericer got to second on the first pitch – putting two into scoring position – but Will Marshall was fanned by Fradette and Worth popped out as base runners seven and eight were left on by Post 72 through six.
“I brought Cory in and I needed a strikeout,” said LaPenta of Fradette. “He got the strikeout. He hasn’t pitched a ton so he’s kind of getting back into it. Having him come in there, getting a strikeout out and a pop-up, getting us out of the inning and keeping the tie was huge.”
And then Goulet unleashed a sizzler to deep left field off the first pitch from Krar. Goulet never stopped running, sliding into third base safely as the triple gave Bristol a change at the go-ahead run. Greene fell on strikes but Nohilly dropped a single into center – scoring Goulet – as Post 2 retook the lead at 2-1.
But Bristol wasn’t finished. Bouchard came through with a huge RBI-triple to center and when Nohilly scored, Post 2 captured a 3-1 edge.
“Evan played in that Futures’ game today, played 12 innings over at CCSU, and rolls his ankle,” said LaPenta “but comes up and gets a huge insurance run because if we’re only up a run in the top of the seventh, it’s a totally different pressure.”
Fradette then walked Kole and Plantamuro was brought in to save the contest.
Kavanagh took three straight pitches on his way to striking out and Leifert smacked a ball right to Goulet, making one heck of a grab, as he calmly threw to first for the final out as Plantamuro closed the door, saving the contest for the locals, as Bristol captured the season series and a huge 3-1 win from Muzzy Field.
“I just thought it was a great team win,” said LaPenta.
NOTES…Bouchard played in the 2019 Rawlings Showcase from the baseball field at Central Connecticut State University earlier in the day – representing Zone 1 very well. He competed on the “Team National Red” squad.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.