BRISTOL â€“ Itâ€™s a marathon, not a sprint.
The Bristol Legion baseball team has worked its way into the top spot in Zone 1 with a 14-5 record following Wednesdayâ€™s 3-1 win over West Hartford.
A slow start to the season could have derailed any playoff plans as Bristol started 1-3, but since then, the squad has improved substantially as it currently sits in first place, with the state tournament set to begin next week.
â€śWe were at a breakneck point when we were 1-3,â€ť Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta said. â€śWe went to Newington and we were ahead 3-0, and they scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, and they had the winning run on third base with two outs and we were looking at 1-4 to start. We held on and we came back and scored two runs in the top of the eighth, got that win and then weâ€™ve kind of just gone on a run of getting behind and coming back or holding leads.â€ť
Bristolâ€™s offense has really shined through since the starting point as in the 13 games since the victory against Newington, Bristol has scored less than four runs just four times.
â€śWeâ€™ve gotten a lot of big two-out hits from the middle of the lineup with guys in scoring position,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śSince that 1-3, weâ€™ve gone 13-2. That was kind of the turning point. We got some confidence and I think we had two or three walk-off wins in the middle of that run. Walk-off wins are great for team chemistry.
â€śWeâ€™ve had a few guys get hurt, a couple guys have been sick and every time somebodyâ€™s out, somebody else has stepped up,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śThey kind of really bought in to the team thing, which is sometimes hard in the summer when some guys want to go on vacation.â€ť
Overall, Bristol has outscored its opponents 93-63 and boast a .736 win percentage just in time for playoffs.
An impressive effort from Andrew Lozier pushed Bristol to the victory on Wednesday in a contest that had important implications on state tournament seeding.
â€śThatâ€™s a huge game,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śRight now weâ€™re in the lead in losses. We have one more game against Simsbury, so we pretty much set ourselves up to be first place in the Zone. Weâ€™ll get a great seed, weâ€™ll get home games here [at Muzzy] for the first two rounds, so [Wednesday] was a huge, huge game. If we lose itâ€™s a three-way tie for six losses.â€ť
Meriden and West Hartford slot in at second and third place, respectively, in Zone 1 and along with Bristol, make up half of the playoff competitors as six teams qualify.
With one game remaining, LaPenta likes the rhythm his team is in with the knockout rounds right around the corner.
â€śWe have three days off now, so weâ€™ll probably do a little practice, a little batting practice on Friday or Saturday at my house, I got a cage,â€ť LaPenta said. â€śWe got a game against Simsbury on Sunday then playoffs start Monday.â€ť
Bristol will travel to Memorial Field in Simsbury with first pitch set for 11 a.m.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.