BRISTOL - There arenâ€™t many bigger stages for area high school athletes than the city rivalry baseball game at Muzzy Field and Bristol Eastern pitcher Zach Marquisâ€™ name was up in lights after Monday nightâ€™s 3-0 win over Bristol Central.
â€śHe was pounding the strike zone, getting a lot of different pitches over the plate and [heâ€™s] such a competitor,â€ť Bristol Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo said. â€śHeâ€™s the guy you want out there in a game like this.â€ť
Marquis pitched a seven-inning, complete-game shutout against the Rams, striking out five - including the first two batters of the game - walking none and surrendering just two hits.
â€śIt was amazing,â€ť Marquis said after the game. â€śI had a dream about it last night and there you go. Just like I dreamed it. Everything was working. The slider was moving right into the strike zone, fast ball was moving in the strike zone.â€ť
The Lancers improved to 7-3 on the season with the win over their biggest rival but it has not been a smooth path through the first 10 games. Bristol Eastern started the season 0-2 after the weather messed with preseason scrimmages and outdoor practices.
The biggest reason why missing those early-spring opportunities to get out on the field had so much of an impact on Bristol Eastern was the pitching staff. The Lancers lost ace Nate Carney to graduation after last season and No. 2-pitcher Tyler Troth moved out of town, leaving an inexperienced group to shoulder the load on the mound this season.
â€śWe knew that pitching was going to be our biggest issue,â€ť Giovinazzo said. â€śWe knew we had good arms, they just didnâ€™t have a lot of experience. Nate and Tyler Troth did so much of the pitching last year that these guys didnâ€™t get a lot of innings. So they kind of had to learn under fire and I think theyâ€™ve done a great job of it.â€ť
â€śI was a little concerned [after the slow start],â€ť the head coach added. â€śBecause we had missed so many scrimmages because of the weather, we really hadnâ€™t set up a pitching rotation yet. But itâ€™s starting to come into shape now. I think thatâ€™s really going to be key the second half of the year.â€ť
That pressure to step up was felt by this seasonâ€™s staff, including Marquis.
â€śI definitely felt [I had] a big role to fulfill for the team,â€ť he said. â€śI think I did a pretty good job [Monday].â€ť
Marquis has been solid for the Lancers this season and a lot of that has to do with his character, not just his talent.
â€śWhen youâ€™ve got a guy like him on the mound, it elevates everybody. The kid is a competitor,â€ť Giovinazzo said. â€śHeâ€™s a state-champion wrestler. Heâ€™s the kind of guy you get on his back and heâ€™s going to take you.â€ť
On Monday, the Lancers put Marquis in a great position to win, both with offense and defense. At the plate, Bristol Eastern scored two runs in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of Bristol Centralâ€™s slow start, and added another run in the second to extend the lead.
â€ś[The early offense was] absolutely huge, especially with a competitor like Zach on the mound,â€ť Giovinazzo said. â€śThat 2 up there, that just gets him going even more.â€ť
The Rams did not get much solid contact off of Marquis but when they did, the Bristol Eastern defense was there to make the plays. The Lancersâ€™ star on defense was right fielder Anthony Lozier, who accounted for five outs in the game, four of which came in the last three innings, and Marquis was more than appreciative.
â€śMy defense, thank god. Everybody played solid defense today,â€ť he said. â€śShout out to Anthony Lozier, great catches today. My team won that game. All the defense, it wasnâ€™t just the pitching. The defense added up everything. Everybody was doing their job.â€ť
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30