BRISTOL - On paper, the Bristol Knights didnâ€™t appear to be a clear threat to make a deep run at the Connecticut Twilight League championship. Having finished the regular season at 10-11 and making the winnerâ€™s bracket thanks to a tiebreaker rule, the Knights were the sixth seed to begin the CTL playoffs after heading into the postseason with five straight losses.
But in the Twilight League, a teamâ€™s written resume can be deceiving.
Bristol entered postseason play with the knowledge that their full-strength roster hadnâ€™t taken the field on a regular basis in the regular season and if they could get that team together on the diamond in the playoffs, their regular season struggles would be meaningless.
â€śI felt from day one that when we have our top guys on the field, we can hang with anyone in any game,â€ť manager Rick Barrett said. â€śWe were missing a lot of guys during the season and thatâ€™s how it is in Twilight ball. We all have families and miss some games, but come playoff time, everyone is ready to go. When we have that team on the field, itâ€™s tough to lose a game.â€ť
Barrett and the Knights have proved that over the past week, storming to three straight victories, including a 4-0 win over the fourth-seeded Elmerâ€™s Angels on Monday night, to advance to the tournament championship, which will begin on Wednesday night at Muzzy Field in Bristol. With a 3-0 record in the postseason, Bristol has taken out three of the top four teams in the CTL standings over the past week. It may come as a surprise to the casual onlooker who has only records to go off of, but to the Knights, itâ€™s exactly what they expected.
â€śWe had the team to start with,â€ť said designated hitter Earl Oakes after pounding out three hits in Bristolâ€™s win over Elmerâ€™s on Monday. â€śIt was just about putting everything together and everything seems to be clicking here in the end. Itâ€™s been fantastic for us.â€ť
The Knights clawed through a pair of one-run games earlier in the tournament before shutting out the Angels on Monday at Muzzy. Bristol was the away team, but playing within the confines of one of its home fields gave the team an added boost that propelled them into the championship series, which will also be held at Muzzy and give the Knights plenty of confidence, regardless of which opponent awaits.
â€śIt definitely gives us a little bit of excitement to get to play in front of the home crowd,â€ť Barrett said. â€śPeople donâ€™t have to travel far to watch us. Muzzy definitely gives us a little bit better of a feeling coming into a game.â€ť
The Knights had a good feeling heading into the postseason, even if their last week of the regular season didnâ€™t give them a reason to feel optimistic. Instead of looking at the result, Bristol chose to look at its potential, which is being recognized over the last three games. This yearâ€™s resume may not have been impressive, but the overall body of work speaks for itself: a league-high four CTL championships and on the cusp of a fifth, the Knights have clamped down on the mistakes that haunted them in the regular season and turned it into a strength. Their once porous defense and the team as a whole have found its way - all the way to the CTL championship.
â€śDefense is the name of the game,â€ť Barrett said. â€śDefensive mistakes hurt us earlier in the season, and weâ€™re not having those anymore in the playoffs. Thatâ€™s what got us to the championship and hopefully will be what helps us win the championship.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org