BRISTOL - Bristolâ€™s Senior American Legion baseball team last year had a successful season, finishing second in the Zone 1 standings with a 13-5 record, reaching the postseason and winning its first two games of the playoffs.
Thatâ€™s when things turned, as the club hit some bad luck with weather and lost the next two games to be ousted from the tournament.
â€śWith the rainouts, the team we played got its best pitchers back, and we lost our advantage,â€ť Bristol head coach Jerry LaPenta said. â€śThey wouldnâ€™t have been able to have those guys pitch if not for the rainouts. I donâ€™t usually blame things on weather like that, but it was an unfortunate break because you win your first two games to put yourself in a good spot, then get set back.â€ť
This season, Bristol is aiming to return to the state tournament and get a bit of redemption. Itâ€™s off to a good start in accomplishing that goal so far, sporting a 3-0 record in Zone 1 games thus far in the young 2019 campaign.
â€śWeâ€™ve gotten excellent pitching,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śWeâ€™ve been throwing a lot of strikes and not having too many walks, which is key. Weâ€™ve had great defense. Itâ€™s very key in the beginning of the Legion season, when we transition to wood. The guys coming off seasons arenâ€™t used to wood bats, and the games arenâ€™t typically high scoring the first three weeks or so.
â€śThereâ€™s an adjustment period with the wood bats. Weâ€™ve done a good job of not walking guys or giving free passes, and weâ€™ve been playing good defense.â€ť
In the season opener, Bristol won an exhibition game against Windsor Locks, 8-1, last Wednesday before scratching out a thrilling 1-0 Zone 1 win Saturday over Winsted Legion Post 43 in nine innings.
Stephen Warowski pitched seven innings, and Noah Plantamuro threw the final two, combining for a two-hitter and the victory after Alec DiLoreto, a Bristol Central baseball player, roped the walk-off hit.
Bristol followed up with a 4-1 victory over West Hartford on Sunday, as starter Jagger Duquette, Bristol Easternâ€™s ace over the past two seasons, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Duquette earned the victory in 5â…” innings of work and Eastern teammate Trevor Mays cleaned up the win with a 1â…“-inning save.
Following an 8-3 loss to Branford in an exhibition game Sunday, in a matchup that came after the game against West Hartford, Bristol cruised past Hartford Post 142, 10-0, on Monday behind five shutout innings from starter Alex Balfour of Bristol Central.
â€śOur goals every year are to win the zone,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śOur team is full of a mixture of kids from high school and five kids returning eligible to play that were freshmen in college last year. We have a pretty good mix of kids.â€ť
After playing for the Connecticut Blue Jays last summer, Duquette is in line to be Bristolâ€™s No. 1 or 2 starter this summer. He is projected to be followed in the starting rotation by Warowski, Mays, Balfour and Ethan Ryan, with a few other guys in the mix as well.
On offense, Plantamuro, Cory Fradette, Macgregor Goulet and Ryan Greene will be leaned on heavily for production and leadership.
Nick Ruffino, from Central, will factor in as a key utility player who can catch, play infield and patrol the outfield. Carson Sassu, of Eastern, will be the teamâ€™s starting catcher and spend time in the outfield to rest his legs after catching nearly every game for the Lancers in 2019.
Centralâ€™s Evan Bouchard will serve as the starting second baseman and the teamâ€™s shortstop when Plantamuro pitches, and the Ramsâ€™ Kyle Lauretti will be splitting time between the senior and junior legion clubs, but is another who could have a solid summer.
â€śItâ€™s a nice mix of all the guys, returning guys and newer guys that came up and can help us win,â€ť LaPenta said.
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org