BRISTOL - One of the Bristol Blues‚Äô biggest games this season came during a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Pittsfield Suns on June 17, a win that sparked a shift in the season‚Äôs momentum.
Fast forward three weeks later and the Blues were up to the same type of thing this past Wednesday and Thursday.
First, against the North Shore Navigators, the Blues found themselves down 4-1 before a wild eighth-inning rally, spinning four singles, two walks and a hit batsman into a thrilling 5-4 victory.¬†
On Thursday, the Blues trailed the Nashua Silver Knights twice - 4-3 in the fifth and 7-5 in the sixth - and another rally ensued, resulting in an 8-7 victory on a walk-off wild pitch in the 10th inning.¬†
Both victories showed the club‚Äôs mentality of being down but not out.¬†
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre gritty, hard-nosed, and play the game hard,‚ÄĚ said outfielder John Orzechowski, who scored the game-winning run against Nashua. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre never gonna give up. I think that shows a lot about us.‚ÄĚ
Catcher Will Reiner, hitting seventh in the order against the Silver Knights, had a chance to be the hero with no outs and runners at first and second in the ninth. He grounded into a double play and the game soon after went to the extra inning.
It wound up not mattering that Reiner missed the opportunity, though, because that‚Äôs what this team has started to do over the past few weeks. If one person doesn‚Äôt get the job done, they know the next one will.¬†
‚ÄúI‚Äôve gotta produce there, but that just shows they‚Äôve got my back, and we won the game. I knew we were gonna win the game no matter what,‚ÄĚ Reiner said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs just the kind of team we are. As a hitting staff, just in general, we just know how to pick each other up and tally on.‚ÄĚ
Starting pitcher Ryan Lauk, who pitched seven innings in the game against North Shore, agrees with Reiner‚Äôs team evaluation.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre a good, close group of guys. I think we just have guys saying, ‚ÄėIt‚Äôs my time to step up,‚Äô and then they hand it off to the next guy,‚ÄĚ Lauk said. ‚ÄúDo your job and then have the next guy do his job. I think that‚Äôs the mindset with these guys.‚ÄĚ
The Blues tallied 13 hits in that Thursday night victory, which is the type of offensive output the team has been putting forth for most of its stretch of 11 wins in 13 games. But having the back-to-back games in which the team had to rally was important, showing they can win in more ways than one.¬†
‚ÄúWe went on a streak of like nine games when we were just beating teams up by five or six,‚ÄĚ third baseman Buddy Dewaine said. ‚ÄúWe were swinging the bat well, and we didn‚Äôt really have to retaliate at the end of the game. It‚Äôs good that we‚Äôre doing this now because we‚Äôre proving we can do it early [and late]. Those are big situations.‚ÄĚ
Helping the Blues have a strong-willed approach is how tight-knit they have become through the season‚Äôs first six weeks.¬†
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre starting to figure out how to play together, and I think that‚Äôs a big thing is getting up here and getting a feel for everybody,‚ÄĚ outfielder J.T. Mounce said. ‚Äú[We‚Äôre] getting a feel for how the game‚Äôs gonna roll with the lineups we throw out there, so I think we‚Äôre just kind of starting to become close and come together, which is perfect.‚ÄĚ
Despite the club losing key starting pitchers Jack Moore (arm) and Arjun Thakar (back) to injury, and a few other players leaving the roster, they have managed to remain tightly bonded.
‚ÄúListen, it‚Äôs definitely tough. Those were definitely some key guys that played some huge rules,‚ÄĚ Lauk said of Moore and Thakar. ‚ÄúThe main thing we keep saying with us is we, as a team, no matter what the score or outcome is, we have the mindset now of just, ‚ÄėWe‚Äôre not losing. Nobody‚Äôs better than us.‚Äô The team that we have, we‚Äôll go to battle with anyone.‚ÄĚ
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org