BRISTOL - What had been a close game turned ugly in a hurry for the Blues on Sunday evening, as the visiting North Shore Navigators rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to take a four-run lead and go on to defeat the Bristol Blues 11-3 at Muzzy Field.
Down early, the Blues had come back to tie the game at 3 after five innings, but after going ahead in the sixth inning, North Shore put the contest away in the seventh.
Christian Cabrera singled to start the rally and after a fly out, Keith Linnane and Conor Bawiec drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. The first run of the inning scored as Blues pitcher Randy Polonia hit Joey Pena with a pitch.
Mike Munson took the mound after that, but was unable to prevent further damage.
A fielder's choice force out at second allowed the second run of the inning to score and an infield error gave the Navigators the 7-3 lead.
“Pitching-wise, we’ve been struggling lately,” Blues manager Pat Riley said.
“When you come back to tie the game 3-3 and you give it right back, it’s hard to stay in the game offensively,” he added.
Five Blues pitchers combined to give up 12 walks in the game.
“You have no shot [at winning] if you do that,” Riley said.
Bristol also committed four errors in the game - including a catcher’s interference call - and had four passed balls and two wild pitches. Combined, the miscues led to five unearned runs.
“We put ourselves in some really tough spots,” Riley said.
Making his Bristol Blues debut in the game and taking the loss despite not allowing an earned run was Shane Bierfeldt, a Torrington native who plays both baseball and soccer for Western Connecticut State University.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound lefthander entered the game with one out and runners on first and second. After a passed ball, he induced a grounder to short for an inning-ending double play.
But he ran into trouble early in the top of the sixth as Bawiec was awarded first base on catcher's interference, took second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from Pena that gave the Navigators a 4-3 lead.
After a fly out, Bierfeldt gave up a double to Jordan Roper to put runners on second and third with one out. He got an infield fly out before being relieved by Polonia, who got the final out on a long fly ball to left field.
After doing little offensively in the first four innings, Bristol came alive at the plate in the fifth inning for a three-run rally that tied the game.
Jimmy Titus got things started with a one-out single and Tyler Roberts followed with another base hit to put runners on first and second. Brandon Grover then drilled a line drive single that sent home Titus with Bristol's first run and put Roberts on third. James Brown followed with another RBI single, sending Grover to third, and a ground out to second base allowed the tying run to score.
North Shore took the early lead with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, a rally that began with a dropped third strike that allowed Pena to reach first base. Pena took second on a ground out and went to third on a base hit from Roper. A throwing error and a passed ball allowed Pena to score and Roper to go to third.
With two outs, Nick DiBenedetto and Cabrera both walked to load the bases, then a third straight walk to Alex Brickman forced in the run that gave the Navigators a 2-0 lead.
North Shore rallied with two outs for another run in the third inning. Cabrera walked, Brickman singled and Linnane delivered an RBI single.
After taking the four-run lead in the seventh, the Navigators continued to add to their advantage in the late innings.
A walk to Cabrera set the stage for a disastrous play in the eighth inning, as another third strike was dropped with two outs and a throwing error put runners on second and third. Pena took advantage of the gift by delivering a two-run single for a 9-3 North Shore lead.
The Navigators added yet another two runs in the ninth inning off reliever Michael Nocera.
Roper walked to start the frame and Colby Maiola followed with a single. DiBenedetto came through with an RBI single before Cabrera walked to load the bases. The final run of the game scored on a double play ground ball to short.
Paul Angilly can be reached at (860) 973-1800, or firstname.lastname@example.org