CROMWELL – This has been a long while coming but on Monday, May 14, the Bristol Eastern baseball team finally got back to the pay window.
With its ace pitcher on the mound and the Lancers hitting the ball much better, Eastern was able to wrangle up a 4-1 non-conference victory over Cromwell on the road.
The win moved the Lancers to 6-11 overall on the season while Cromwell fell to 4-15.
Eastern senior Jagger Duquette threw a complete game, moving to 4-2 overall on the campaign, and dominated the squad from the ECC.
He allowed just four hits, one unearned run, walked two, and struck out seven – facing only 26 batters – to earn the Lancers their first victory since defeating Platt (1-0) back on April 17.
And the win had historical implications for the Bristol Eastern baseball program.
It was the 599th victory by Eastern head coach Mike Giovinazzo and the long time mentor needed just one win over the final three games to capture magical number 600.
But beyond that, the Lancers gave their playoff chances a bit of a boost as the squad had to win two of its final three games to qualify for the state tournament fray.
Eastern has qualified for the postseason every year since 1999.
And the victory broke an 11-game losing streak, which was not a program record for consecutive losses. The 1971 team started off 3-2 before losing 12 straight games to end the season.
But fast-forwarding back to 2019, the Lancers nabbed a 1-0 edge over Cromwell in the top of the third inning and started the game with zest.
The Panthers did score a run in the bottom of the tilt to tie the contest up but Eastern threw up a three-spot in the fifth stanza to ice the showdown.
Eastern had seven hits in the game, two each by Jack Kozikowski and Nathan Ouellette – who earned the start behind the plate for the visiting squad as Carson Sassu moved over to shortstop.
Ouellette smacked out a double, the Lancers only extra-base hit of the showdown, and did well behind the plate.
Tyler Baldwin’s RBI double led Cromwell at the dish against Eastern.
Defense fueled the game for the victors as Eastern committed just one error in the field.
In the top of the third of the scoreless game, Dylan Woodsome walked with one out and the Lancers had something brewing.
Carson Sassu followed with an infield single to deep short, putting runners on first and second base.
Kozikowski then drilled a single to right center – scoring Woodsome – to make it a 1-0 contest.
Cromwell came back with an unearned run in the bottom of the third as leadoff batter Elias DeLeon walked to get onboard.
He later took second on a wild pickoff throw, moved to third via a passed ball and DeLeon scored when Baldwin sliced his double down the right field line to tie the affair up at 1-1.
But after that double, Duquette was nearly unstoppable.
He retired 14 of the final 17 Cromwell batters he faced, scattering two singles, and a walk to end the affair.
Eastern ended the suspense by scoring three runs in the fifth inning as Woodsome stated off the game-winning drive with a base-one-ball.
Sassu followed up by laying down a sacrifice bunt which was misplayed, putting runners on first and second.
Kozikowski then sacrificed the runners to second and third as the Lancers had the duo in scoring position.
And with two outs, Noah Hickey beat out an infield single to deep short, plating Woodsome, as the go-ahead run made it a 2-1 game.
Ouellette later unloaded his extra-base hit – a long double off the left field fence – to score Sassu and Hickey as the two-RBI tally put the game out of reach at 4-1.
Eastern finished the season with a non-conference game at Norwich Free Academy the following day while battling Plainville and Bristol Central – all on the road – to end the year in an attempt to qualify for postseason play for the 21st consecutive campaign.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.