By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – The Bristol Central baseball team had to dig deep to pull one out against Plainville on Wednesday, May 21.
But as the game seemed to be slipping away, the Rams made its comeback, forced an extra stanza and then tagged the Blue Devils for four runs in the eighth inning to put the thing away as Central made a 6-4 come-from-behind victory from Alumni Field in Plainville in a CCC South tilt.
Central (11-7) kept in it off the strength of the pitching from Jerry LaPenta (4-3) who held the fort from the start.
He didn’t overwhelm the Blue Devils (9-8) and he didn’t rack up huge strikeout numbers but made the big pitch when it mattered and nearly threw a complete game effort, going 7.2 innings to nab his biggest victory of the campaign.
“With Jerry, we talked at length about finishing pitches off,” said Central coach Bunty Ray. “And I think he did that around the third inning on. Early on, he gets hit. He gets the two strikes like he always does. He throws strikes but he throws too many strikes. Today, the location was a lot better. He was (also) on normal rest…I haven’t had him on normal rest all year.”
“I thought as the game wore on, he gave us a good effort.”
This game could have been ended early by the Rams but errors, mental mistakes, and general tomfoolery prolonged the contest.
“It was a cat and mouse act actually,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville about the game. “You can’t leave a good team like that hanging around and we left them hanging around. I don’t want to say we let them hang around but make them swing the bats (and) and that’s what they did in the eighth inning.”
Central just missed out on breaking open the game off a bases-loaded situation – with no outs – in the fifth frame that resulted in only one run, as a huge defensive stop by Marc “Bubba” Milo foiled the Rams in the sixth and a squeeze bunt attempt in the seventh – that would have netted the game-winning run for the Rams – fell short.
But in the eighth, Central put all the players into motion and knocked Plainville out of contention.
With the scored tied at 2-2, Kyle Pileski started the final inning by getting hit-by-a-pitch and Tony Nicoletti slammed a single to left to put two on.
After Jacob Hall was intentionally walked, it was time for Jimmy Godbout to make Plainville pay.
Godbout nailed a deep shot to centerfield as both lead runners crossed the plate, propelling the visitors to a 4-2 push.
“We were flirting with it all game,” said Ray of the big hit. “You know, the squeeze bunt we didn’t get, the opportunities for the run producing situations we didn’t capitalize on. But it was just a matter of time. You have to play the percentages. At some point, something was going to happen.”
“It was nice to see it come of the bat of Jimmy.”
But the Rams weren’t done yet.
With one out, Nick Sassu drew a walk and once again, the bases were loaded.
Joey DeFillippi then sent a grounder to shortstop, which was easily going to score Hall from third base for an RBI tally, but Shane Pugliese threw the ball away – allowing Godbout to cross the plate as well and suddenly, Central’s lead was an imposing 6-2 edge.
“They’re finding ways to win those close game,” said Ray of his squad. “We’ve been in a lot of them. We’re not an offensive machine so we’re out there, pitching, playing defense. We’re in close games and we have to execute.”
But even as Central nabbed its impressive lead, Plainville wasn’t done yet.
Down four runs to open the bottom of the eighth, Mike Munson started the rally off with a double to center.
With one out, Milo slammed a two-base hit to the left field fence – scoring Munson – as Plainville was back in it and trailing by just a 6-3 score.
But off a pop-out, Plainville was trailing by three and down to its last out.
However, the Blue Devils were hardly finished.
Buzz Adams, filling in for Kyle Beloin at first base, slipped in a single up the middle as Milo hit the plate. The Blue Devils were in it but still down 6-4 with no margin left for error.
Pinch hitter Jay Monteleone drilled a base-hit into centerfield and LaPenta’s day was done.
Off reliever Jake Collins, Pugliese drew a four-pitch walk and the bases were juiced with the go-ahead run standing at first base.
But Matt Sauvron popped out at short and Central completed an impressive 6-4 come-from-behind win in what turned into a wild and wooly affair.
“When you go up 2-0, you find a way to go up three, four, five-nothing and momentum is on your side,” said Plainville coach Lou Mandeville. “If you give up two runs in a seven inning game, you should win the ball-game and that didn’t happen.”
Nicoletti had a big day for Central, getting two hits, an RBI and drawing a walk in the fray and his sixth-inning RBI single tied the game at 2-2 and made it a new ballgame.
“Nicoletti has been our leader in terms of our spark plug,” said Ray. “He gets that hit to tie the game and I think you see everybody sort of go from there.”
Pugliese, Munson and Milo all had doubles in the losing effort for the Blue Devils (9-8) while belting Central for 11 big hits.
Starting pitcher Brett Snowden was tough over his five-plus innings and had his curveball working against the Rams.
He only gave up one earned run and while he hit a couple batters in the excursion, Snowden remained calm and poised until he was lifted in the game for Munson in the sixth.
“And I thought Snowden pitched well,” said Mandeville of his starting pitcher. “He pitched well, kept them off-balanced, had them a little frustrated and we just couldn’t get more runs for him.”
Munson held the fort and Jon Lindgren – absorbing a tough loss – went 1.2 innings but battled throughout.
Over the first three stanzas, Central pretty much looked like a squad who was playing its third game in as many days.
Plainville added a run in the first inning of play but in the third, the home team went to a little small ball to go up in the game by two.
Andre DeGregorio walked to open the third and Pugliese singled as Plainville had runners on the corners.
With Sauvron at the plate, Pugliese baited the Central defense into a rundown between first and second base, and DeGregorio waited for his chance to break for home-plate.
Pugliese was in the middle of the pickle and eventually, Central fell asleep on DeGreorio at third as the junior scored and gave Plainville a 2-0 push after three completed frames.
“I didn’t like the way we came out over the first three innings,” said Ray. “I thought we were flat, it was our third game in three days, no excuses. It took us a while to just get going. I think once we got on the board and knew it was a game, I saw some guys getting a little energized. “
Down 2-0, Central scored a run in the fifth off a walk and consecutive hit batsmen.
With the bases loaded and one out, Barry McPhail came in to pinch-hit and delivered a sacrifice fly – plating Nicoletti – as the Rams chopped the deficit in half at 2-1.
In the fifth, it was Nicoletti’s turn as he slipped a single past first base and Jarrett Michaels, who reached base off an error, scored via the RBI offering and quickly, things were notched at 2-2.
“When a young team makes mistakes, you just hope you make more positives than negatives,” said Ray. “And right now, we’re making more positive plays.”
Both team had chances to end the event in regulation but interferences calls, base running blunders, and costly outs kept the game at 2-2 with Plainville coming to bat in the seventh inning of play.
Beloin just beat out an infield hit to get on base and off a sacrifice by Andre DeGregorio, the lead runner was in scoring position.
Pugliese was intentionally walked but with two outs, Plainville had runners on first and second.
Pezzulo slammed a one-hopper to Michaels in centerfield as his sharply hit ball was cleanly fielded.
Beloin rounded third base and headed for home.
Michaels zipped the ball in to Nick Sassu at the plate, he quickly applied the tag to the approaching runner and as Beloin bowled over the catcher, he was called out and the Plainville runner was also ejected from the game for nailing the man behind the plate.
“I have to give my kids credit,” said Mandeville. “We battled today, we competed today and it just didn’t work out.”
But in the opening frame of extra innings, Central notched those four runs to seize ultimate control of the game, leading to the huge win.
“I have to credit some of the teams that we’ve been playing,” said Ray. “We haven’t been handed anything. They’re going out hitting the ball, pitching and playing defense against us. Today, we were able to capitalize on the few mistakes (Plainville) made. And that’s high school baseball.”
“The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins the game.”
In the end, a loss might be a loss but there’s a bigger overall picture that Plainville is gunning for and Central helped out in that mission.
“This is a ball-game that’s going to make you better for the tournament,” said Mandeville. “These are ball-games you want to play in because today was tournament type play. I credit for the kids coming out in the bottom of the eighth and putting the tying run on second base.” “We showed a little guts there. I’d liked to win it but it didn’t work out.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE