Bristol Junior American Legion team comes from behind to advance in Northeast Regional

Published on Friday, 10 August 2018 21:15
Written by PAUL ANGILLY

@CTsportsDeputy

WINDSOR LOCKS - The team may not make it look easy, but Bristol’s Junior American Legion Baseball squad seems to somehow find a way to win most of the time.

Trailing 5-0 midway through the game and down to their last out in the bottom of the seventh, the Post 2 Juniors came from behind to send the game into extra innings and eventually win 6-5 on a walk-off, two-out, bases-loaded RBI single by Evan Bouchard in the eighth inning, beating Rhode Island state runner-up Elmwood Sports Center Auburn Post 20 in the opening round of Northeast Regional play on Friday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park.

Bristol was coming off its 4-3 win over Stamford last Sunday for the state title, in which it was similarly down to its last out, down 2-0, before winning in the eighth inning.

“Our team just never quits, and I’m proud of the boys,” Bristol head coach Bill Mason said. “All these extra inning games and all the competing that we’ve done, it’s been great.”

Bristol was down 5-3 headed into the bottom of the seventh, when Joseph Maglio III drew the first walk issued by either team in the game. He proved to be the last batter for the Cranston, R.I.-based team’s starting pitcher, Ayden Bliss, who let up just two base runners through the game’s first four innings before Bristol got to him for a pair of runs in the fifth.

Rhode Island relief pitcher Jake Cuddemi was then greeted with an RBI double deep down the left field line off the bat of Kyle Lauretti. A fly out to shallow right field left Lauretti stuck at second with two outs, but Bouchard (4-for-5, 2 RBI) delivered a game-tying RBI single.

Bristol went on to load the bases on an infield single from Tyler Donohue, who moved to second on fielders’ indifference, and an intentional walk to Dillon Hudson, but a line drive out back to the pitcher ended the frame and sent the game to an extra inning.

Bristol’s Trevor Mays pitched the complete game and only got stronger as it went along. Only one Rhode Island batter reached base against him over the final three innings, and that was on an infield error with one out in the eighth. He had seven strikeouts in the game, including five over those final three innings. He struck out the final two batters in the eighth inning after the error.

“With this team all season, we’re never out of a game. I never doubt my team,” Bouchard said.

“We’ve just got confidence and we have each other’s backs, and ready to win any game - bottom of the seventh or any time we need to do it,” he said. “We never look at the score. We just think, it’s not last inning, we’ve still got to the last inning, we’ve still got one more inning to hit, one more inning to hit, we’ve still got one at-bat. We just think positive the whole game. We come back a lot.”

Despite the final result, the first half of the game went all Rhode Island’s way.

The Cranston squad got a leadoff double from Jorge Ramos to start the game, and he scored on an RBI single from Kaleb Harris for a 1-0 lead after the first inning. In the second, Bliss reached second on an infield error to start the frame and scored on an RBI single by Aaron Coccoli.

Mays got a 1-2-3 third inning, but Rhode Island struck for a pair of runs in the fourth on singles from Massimo Feroce and Mario Delsignore, an errant pickoff throw, a stolen base and a run-scoring passed ball, followed by an RBI double from Coccoli (2-for-3, 2 RBI) to make it 4-0.

In the top of the fifth, a two-out single from Harris, an infield error and an RBI single by Delsignore gave the Rhode Island runner-ups a 5-0 advantage.

That’s when Bristol’s bats came alive.

Joe Crowley hit a leadoff double to start the bottom of the fifth and moved to third on a bunt single by Jack Kozikowski - a sacrifice attempt in which Kozikowski was able to beat the throw. After Kozikowski stole second, Derek Mason dropped a suicide squeeze that successfully drove in Bristol’s first run of the game, as Crowley crossed the plate. Lauretti then grounded out to short, but Kozikowski scored on the play to cut the gap to 5-2.

“Derek Mason’s squeeze got us going, and that’s what we’ve done all year, the small ball,” coach Mason said. “It got us going, and that’s the way we’ve rolled all year.”

In the sixth inning, a two-out single by Hudson set up an RBI triple from Anthony Marrotti that cut the margin to 5-3.

After Bristol tied it in the seventh, Crowley led off the eighth by beating out an infield single against Rhode Island’s third pitcher of the day, Dylan Demers. A walk to Maglio with one out and No. 9 hitter Nick Ruffino getting hit by a pitch with two outs set up Bouchard’s game-winning base hit.

“I think they were a little keyed up and … that bunt with Derek, that got it going,” coach Mason said. “That’s what we’ve done all year, and that’s motivate our team to get going every time.”

While there is a consolation bracket, the Northeast Regional is really a single-elimination format, with a team needing to win three straight to claim the title. Bristol continues that quest tonight in a 7 p.m. game against the winner of Friday night’s late game between New Hampshire state champion Dover and host Windsor Locks.

“We want to just keep going. We’re on a roll right now,” coach Mason said.

Bouchard added, “I feel great. I feel like we’re just going to just keep playing our game, do the same thing, and we’re ready to win.”

Paul Angilly can be reached at 860-973-1800, or pangilly@bristolpress.com



Posted in The Bristol Press, General Sports on Friday, 10 August 2018 21:15. Updated: Friday, 10 August 2018 21:17.