By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Who would have ever thought the Bristol Legion baseball team would be playing in the Northeast Regional Championship game?
Bristol sure did and after a grueling 9-8, 12 inning showdown against Cumberland, Rhode Island, Post 2 got its chance to battle well-rested RCP of Connecticut in an “all Connecticut” final to determine the Northeast representative of the American Legion World Series.
But in the end, RCP was heading for Shelby, N. C. behind a 5-0 victory over a game yet exhausted Bristol squad from Muzzy Field in Bristol on Sunday, August 9 to close out Northeast Regional play in 2015.
“We had tired guys are there in the end,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta. “But they [my players] gave it everything they got. We [did] have a couple chances there.”
Impressively, Bristol went 4-2 in regional play and the squad certainly proved it belonged in the championship tilt.
RCP notched a single run in the first inning and two additional in the third to make it a 3-0 push after two completed frames.
Post 2 simply couldn’t get over that early hump though Post 2 held the Connecticut state champs to only seven total runs in two tournament games, which was an impressive feat in itself.
In all, RCP zipped up 10 hits off four Bristol pitchers in the championship round as the squad simply ran out of arms – and innings – as the tournament came to a close.
Bristol’s Ricky Lemke gave it go as did Wes Lahey, Zach Marquis and finally, Jerry LaPenta.
“I only had so many guys,” said LaPenta about the pitching. “I had to take Wes out, he ran out of innings. I couldn’t bring Jerry in earlier because he only had five [innings left]. So I was really trying to figure out how to get nine innings. “
Lahey (2.2 IP, zero his, one walk) and LaPenta (1.2 IP, 2 hits) did not allow any runs in the ballgame for Post 2.
Kevin Radziewicz went 3-of-4, Austin White was 2-of-4, Dave Sevigney zipped up a double as did Nick Queiroz to pace the RCP offense.
And defensively, RCP impressed – led by shortstop Cory Baldwin who snuffed out a couple possible run churning drives that might have done some damage on the scoreboard.
“They’re battled tested,” said LaPenta of RCP. “They know how to win. To their credit, they just play great defense. The shortstop today played awesome… He made that play in the hole and he turned that inning around.”
Troy Micale etched out two of Bristol’s five total hits while Jake Hall, big Chadd Richardson and Kyle Pileski – playing in his final Bristol Legion baseball game – also generated hits as well.
The Connecticut champs did a great job hitting the ball with two outs on the board and over the first three innings that timely offense led to three quick runs.
RCP notched a run in the bottom of the first when Kevin Radziewicz beat out a hit to shortstop and eventually advanced to third with two outs.
Chris Bouchard smoked a single to left as the Connecticut champs went ahead in the fray 1-0.
In the second, RCP went right back to work.
Austin White stroked a base hit to right but got caught trying to steal for the first out of the inning.
Sevigny then doubled to left centerfield to get a runner in scoring position.
Leo Thomas hit into a fielder’s choice and Micale got Sevigny sliding into third base but Nick Queiroz won the battle and drew a hard fought base-on-balls.
Radziewicz then bounced a grounder off Lemke on the mound as the ball squirted away from the first base bag and quickly, the bases were juiced.
Tucker Lord then dropped a single into left-center, scoring two runs, as RCP went ahead by a 3-0 push.
That ended Lemke’s night as Lahey made his way to the mound with runners on first and third.
RCP’s Cory Baldwin grounded out to end the frame as Bristol was on the wrong side of a 3-0 score.
Micale had a single to center in the first and Pileski notched a hit in the second but those tallies didn’t go anywhere.
In the third, LaPenta earned a leadoff walk, stole second but did not cross the plate as RCP’s 3-0 edge was holding.
But in the top of the fourth, Bristol was trying to make a little noise.
Jake Hall and Richardson each generated back-to-back singles and Kyle Pileski bunted the duo over to put both in scoring position.
But Jalen Benoit popped out and Andrew Owsianko looked at strike three as Post 2 could not tally a run on the scoreboard.
Lahey stabilized the game as he retired the first seven batters he faced to keep it a 3-0 game after four innings of play.
After Radziewicz was retired, Lahey was relieved by Zach Marquis and he got the last two batters of the frame but after five innings, Post 2 was still hanging around and down just the three runs.
Micale started the sixth off with a sharp double to left-centerfield and quickly, the tying run was in the on-deck circle.
But Ogorzalek retired the next three batters and Bristol was still trailing by three at 3-0.
And then in the seventh, Post 2 made its move once again.
With two outs, LaPenta walked and Rasmus reached via an error and the tying run came up to bat.
But Sassu grounded out as RCP held firm and kept its lead at three.
And then RCP, kept hitless after the second inning, generated a run as Queiroz doubled to left-centerfield and Radziewicz singled him home, giving the Connecticut champs an imposing 4-0 push.
LaPenta then came in to throw for Bristol and gave up an RBI single to Cory Baldwin as RCP’s push reached 5-0 after seven.
In the eighth, Bristol couldn’t put one across and RCP could not either as Post 2 was down to its final three outs of the season.
But Ogorzalek struck out two and nabbed a liner by LaPenta as RCP moved on to world series play, beating Bristol by a 5-0 push.
However, it was one heck of a ride by Bristol as the squad – went the distance – before falling by five to the Northeast Regional champions.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE