NEW BRITAIN - The Bristol Central baseball team struggled at times in Mondayâ€™s 8-4 loss to New Britain and costly mistakes were made, but the outlook was not all bad for the Rams.
â€śComing into the season, I wouldnâ€™t have thought that [offense would be a strength], but these guys battle offensively,â€ť Bristol Central coach Bunty Ray said. â€śWe put the ball in play. The middle of our lineup hit the ball well. We donâ€™t run very well, but we definitely put pressure on the other team.
â€śWe make you have to pitch, and knowing that we can come back is good.â€ť
The Rams put up seven hits against New Britain ace Will Homar and stranded eight runners throughout the game, while only striking out five times.
For Ray, seeing his team get on base, despite not being able to drive those runners in, was a good sign for the rest of the season.
â€śThey didnâ€™t go out with their runs and just put us down,â€ť he said. â€śWe had baserunners and thatâ€™s a recipe for disaster sometimes in a high school game. Itâ€™s an error here, a walk there and, all of a sudden, things change. Weâ€™ve got to continue to put pressure on the other team, which I like to see.â€ť
Bristol Centralâ€™s clutch hitting wasnâ€™t there on Monday, but Ray was encouraged by the contact his team was making, even though it wasnâ€™t resulting in more hits and runs.
â€śWe had a couple of line drives that just missed,â€ť Ray said. â€śWe had a couple of line drives that were caught. The other day, those fell. Thatâ€™s baseball.
â€śCredit their pitcher. He made some big pitches in certain situations. Thatâ€™s an All-State pitcher out there. Itâ€™s not like youâ€™re going to go out there and have your way with them.
â€śBut I thought we did a good job of putting the ball in play. We only had four strikeouts or something like that [actually five], so thatâ€™s something to build off offensively.â€ť
While the Rams felt good on the offensive side of the ball, the defense was not as strong. Starting pitcher Alec DiLoreto only lasted two innings and change, reliever Stephen Warkoski pitched just another 2 1/3 and the defense as a whole committed three errors, two of which contributed to three runs for the Hurricanes.
â€śDefensively, I was very let down with the way weâ€™re attacking the game,â€ť Ray said. â€śWe need to do a better job of limiting our mistakes. We gave them extra base hits. We gave them energy when we really didnâ€™t need to. When you gift-wrap runs like that, itâ€™s a long day.
â€śThey got timely hits against guys that couldnâ€™t get ahead. The only guy, [Alex] Balfour at the end, was able to at least keep them off balance a little bit, which is what you needed to do.â€ť
While the errors were costly, there were multiple other mistakes that the Rams made that did not show up as errors, but equally led to New Britain getting the win.
â€śThere were a couple of plays out there that we made and theyâ€™re mistakes that the average eye isnâ€™t going to see: the little coverage plays, the understanding of counts, the understanding of what to do in situations defensively, where to position,â€ť Ray said.
â€śThere are certain things that we call gamesmanship that were lacking. But weâ€™re going to keep building on them. Thatâ€™s what comes with games like this.â€ť
The Bristol Central pitching staff was depleted on Monday, with No. 1 guy Brock Clark out with an injury and Kenny Knox resting after recently pitching. But Ray is hopeful that the younger hurlers will be able to get accustomed to playing at the varsity level soon and getting Clark back will ease the pressure on them.
â€śI thought pitching and defense would be our strengths,â€ť Ray said. â€śWhen we get Brock Clark back, whoâ€™s our No. 1 pitcher - heâ€™s been hurt - and Kenny, obviously, we held him a day because he just pitched, [that will help]. For us, itâ€™s just getting the young arms acclimated to this. Once our young arms come around and theyâ€™re able to give us some quality innings, I think youâ€™re going to start to see us move forward a little.â€ť
The loss was only Bristol Centralâ€™s second game of the season after the Rams took down Berlin 9-8 in the season opener. The weather has restricted the Ramsâ€™ development and sharpness early this season, but what they have done so far makes their head coach think good things are possible this year.
â€śIâ€™m not going to make excuses for them because thatâ€™s not me, but we really havenâ€™t been outside enough to really get a lot of work on the things that weâ€™re doing wrong,â€ť Ray said. â€śIf we can get outside, we can get some things done. If we make mistakes then, then Iâ€™m going to start making moves. But right now, itâ€™s a matter of just getting repetition, getting comfortable and making reads off the ball.
â€śI think this team will be pretty good if we can stay the course. We already got a win under our belt, so we know that we can win. Now itâ€™s just a matter of pushing forward and executing a little bit better.â€ť
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30