BRISTOL - With seven games remaining on the Bristol Central baseball teamâ€™s schedule, the season may just be getting started.
The Rams have been missing some of their key cogs in the lineup up to this point and are expecting big performances out of them down the stretch as they return. All are expected back soon if theyâ€™re not already.
â€śItâ€™s been a long stretch without them,â€ť Bristol Central senior pitcher Steve Warkoski said. â€śWeâ€™ve been losing games but weâ€™ve only been losing by one bad inning. Itâ€™s not like the guys have been doing bad by any means. But when we have these guys back weâ€™ll be better and stronger than ever.â€ť
It all starts with two-time all-conference shortstop Noah Plantamuro.
With the season days away Plantamuro received news that he wasnâ€™t going to be able to play, at least not for a long stretch of games due to mono.
His absence on the field was a blow for the Rams and may have taken some juice out of them as they were gearing up to start the year.
Bristol Central coach Bunty Ray is hopeful Plantamuro will be cleared in time for tonightâ€™s game against Platt.
â€śHeâ€™s a four-year starter for me,â€ť Ray said. â€śHe knows exactly what we need to do. Heâ€™s done a great job as another coach out there for the kids, even in practice. Heâ€™s always talking to them. Heâ€™s been such a positive force throughout this whole ordeal. I mean youâ€™re a two-time all-conference shortstop. Youâ€™re going into your senior year and told youâ€™re going to miss 10 games and then on the 10th day when you think youâ€™re coming back youâ€™re told youâ€™re going to miss another two weeks. Iâ€™m very optimistic that heâ€™s going to get cleared and something good is going to happen for him because he deserves it.â€ť
Outside of Plantamuro, Jaylen Dias, Jake Santiago, Alex Balfour and Austin Brown have all dealt with injuries.
Dias and Santiago have returned to the lineup for Bristol Central. The two players combined to miss 11 games this season.
Santiago, the starting catcher, delivered the sacrifice fly which proved to be the difference in the Ramsâ€™ 1-0 win over Berlin Monday afternoon.
Dias, serving as the designated hitter right now, is a proven hitter in the middle of the batting order that brings power to the lineup.
Most importantly, timely hitting and situational hitting is something the veterans hitters will bring to a lineup thatâ€™s been missing it and it should open up some different opportunities for the Rams at the plate.
â€śI think weâ€™re going to be able to get a little bit more aggressive and go out and do some things up and down the lineup,â€ť Ray said. â€śBefore weâ€™ve had some holes in the lineup just because of body strength and because of youth, but Iâ€™ve got some veteran hitters that are anxious to get in there and swing the bat.â€ť
Balfour has battled through injury this season and Brown missed a game with a hobbled leg.
With the veteran players out of the lineup, Brown has been a steady contributor as a sophomore and has found himself hitting in the leadoff spot in recent games because of it.
â€śHeâ€™s earned that,â€ť Ray said. â€śHis on base percentage is great. Heâ€™s a scrappy player. Iâ€™ve been very pleased with his competitiveness. Heâ€™s a multiple sport athlete. I think too many times youâ€™ve got kids out there who put all of their eggs in one basket. I like guys that compete and I love the way he competes.â€ť
Alec DiLoreto has been the only returning player for the Rams who has been a mainstay in this yearâ€™s lineup. Without some of the other veteran players healthy, heâ€™s had to pick up the slack and has done so.
â€śHeâ€™s doing a good job at the plate,â€ť Ray said. â€śHeâ€™s been getting a couple hits a game and if you mix him in there with everyone else, weâ€™ll have our lineup that we should have had.â€ť
With Bristol Central expecting its key players back soon, itâ€™ll ease the pressure of younger players such as Brown and will provide some help to players such as DiLoreto.
â€śItâ€™ll be a little more relaxing out there,â€ť Brown said. â€śItâ€™s going to be a really fun end to the season.â€ť
The Rams need three wins to secure a postseason berth and if Bristol Central is able to lock it up, come playoff team it could be a dangerous team.
â€śThereâ€™s no gimmes,â€ť Ray said. â€śBut I think when you have your veterans out there, theyâ€™ve been there before and those guys are a little hungrier. Theyâ€™ve been sitting out watching. When you sit out and watch I think you get a little hungry. I think theyâ€™ve been able to sit back and reflect on what it means to have something taken away from you.â€ť
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ email@example.com