Special to the Press
The Bristol Knights baseball team is more than halfway through its 15th season, with a 12-3-1 record (prior to Friday night’s late game) entering the final month of the 2017 Connecticut Twilight League regular season.
The Knights are in first in the CTL Central Deivision, with a 4½ game lead over the next closest in the division, the rival Elmer’s Silver Bullets of New Britain/Newington, entering Friday night’s action.
The Bristol Knights started in early 2003 when Gary, Scott, and Chris Dickens gathered local Bristol area baseball players that were now too old to play Legion ball and put together a new team that joined what is now the Connecticut Twilight League.
It was the start of an another successful team, continuing in Bristol’s winning baseball tradition.
Over the years, the team has won four championships in the Connecticut Twilight League (2007, 2011, 2014 and 2015), and also had fantastic years like 2016, when the team dominated the regular season (20-4-1) only to fall short in the playoffs. In addition, the team won a Connecticut Fall Ball NABA championship in 2008.
This year, the team is poised again to make a very strong push for a fifth Connecticut Twilight League title. The Knights look to finish strong in their last 10 games before playoffs start in early August.
Last year after winning 20 games in the regular season, but falling early in the playoffs, the Knights decided to address some shortcomings in the lineup.
To address some lack of offense, the Knights added three local area college baseball players.
Tyler Pina of Plainville, recently graduated from Mitchell College, brings some offense and pop to the lineup. In addition the team added all-around baseball sparkplug Neil Kelley from Hall High School in West Hartford and a current player for Pamona Pitzer in California. Both should help the team score more runs in 2017.
The last piece of the puzzle was one more strong pitcher to come in and be a difference maker while also keeping the whole staff more fresh for the playoffs. The Knights were able to pick up Avon Old Farms and Bucknell Bisons lefthander Mike Castellani. He has come on as a difference-maker and brought another strong and dominant pitcher to the Knights’ already very impressive pitching staff.
The Knights have been led for many years primarily by strong pitching and defense and 2017 is no different.
The staff is led by eight-year veteran righthander Earl Oakes, who is currently leading the team with a 4-0 record, a 0.37 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings.
Righthander Marco Ross returns and has a 0.90 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings. Lefty Chris McGrath is 3-0 with 18 strikeouts and a 1.26 ERA in 16 1/3 innings.
Lefty Nick DiTaranto leads the staff in innings pitched with 26 and also has three wins on the year with a 2.69 ERA.
Tyler Favreau, Nick Dzioba and Castellani have been the primary relievers. The team is currently sporting an impressive 1.45 ERA collectively.
The offense returns many of its regulars and strong players from the last few years to go with newcomers Pina and Kelley.
Catcher Eddie Dickman is having a solid year with a .304 batting average, six RBI, and six runs. Right fielder Steve Clout is leading the team with a .378 average and 11 RBI, with seven runs. Center fielder Kyle Lentini is batting .323 with 10 runs and five RBI.
Julio Ortiz-Rivera is currently leading the team and league with 12 stolen bases, while also scoring eight runs on the year. Marco Ross is doing it at the plate too, batting .375 with five RBI.
Other notable returning players are infielder Rick Barrett, catcher Drew Gallagher, utilityman Joe Dalton, infielder Dan Nunes, shortstop Tommy Stagis, infielder/catcher Brian Murray, catcher/infielder Mike Scanlon, DH Scott Dickens and infielder Brian LaRochelle.
The team is led again by coaches Scott Dickens, Rick Barrett, Earl Oakes, Steve Clout and manager Brian LaRochelle.
Recently the Knights got to take the field as part of the Connecticut Twilight League Summer Classic at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.
On June 25, the Knights played a tough game against division rival East Hartford Angels, but the game ended in a 4-4 tie due to time constraints for the event. It was a day that the team will always remember fondly.
The Knights were the third game of the day at the event and, unfortunately, the last two games were rained out following Bristol’s game.
Those two games will be made up and continue the CTL Summer Classic at Dunkin’ Donuts Park starting Sunday, July 23, at 10 a.m. Admission is free.