BRISTOL - As they gathered bats, cleats and gloves to stuff inside their backpacks Wednesday night, there weren’t any disgruntled faces or angry body language displayed by the Bristol Knights in their Muzzy Field dugout.
An average season mixed with frustrations probably would have brought forth those upset reactions had a disappointing 10-11-1 season and the No. 6 seed in the Connecticut Twilight League playoffs led to a brief postseason stay.
But a mini Cinderella ensued, with the Knights upsetting the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the CTL to reach the best-of-three championship series against third-seeded Fat Orange Cat.
Bristol won the clubs’ first postseason meeting 5-4 on Aug. 5. The rematch went a different way.
The Knights were upended 9-2 in game one, and despite a 3-0 first-inning lead in game two, things quickly got out of control, the season coming to a spiraling, unraveling end via a 16-5 defeat, as Bristol had to watch the Brewers loudly celebrate hoisting the trophy on its home field.
It was a bit of a shell-shocking end for Bristol after having played so well throughout the first three games of an impressive playoff run.
“Definitely surprising,” Bristol manager/infielder Rick Barrett said. “I don’t even know if it’s hit me yet. I’ll have to reflect on it, go home, lay down and go to sleep. It’s baseball for you, and things like this happen. You never know.
“The season was up and down all season long, and we just happened to come into the playoffs on an up. We had everybody there, and we rolled through until tonight.”
There was the sting of losing in such a lopsided fashion that wasn’t sitting well with Barrett, but after having watched his club roller coaster throughout the summer, he still couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride with his group.
“I’ve still gotta pat these guys on the back,” Barrett said. “They had a hell of a season. It was a great run throughout the playoffs, and I’ll be happy to see them all back next year.”
Bristol co-founder and advisor Scott Dickens was also happy with the Knights’ final effort over the last week and a half to reach the season’s final series in the parity-filled CTL.
“We had a really good year,” Dickens said. “There was a pack of teams in the middle [of the standings], but all year long teams were playing around .500. Even though we finished 10-11-1, we could’ve easily finished in second or third place, or we could’ve easily finished ninth. One through nine was really competitive in our league this year.”
Of course, that sub-.500 record could have been better had the Knights been more tuned up on defense throughout the summer. That’s something Barrett admits the team will have to improve going forward if Bristol wants to win its fifth league championship and first since 2015.
That includes doing infield/outfield drills more frequently and consistently prior to the start of the season. It also will entail seeking out new, young talent, especially from the Bristol area.
Recruiting new talent could lead to a replacement for Barrett, who just wrapped up his 10th season with the team. Though he expects to play at least one more season, Barrett says he will put thought into retirement this offseason.
If he does return, though, he believes this roster has the talent to make another run at a league title. Even when the club had seen some frustrations at the season’s midway point, Barrett believed the Knights could make it to the championship series, and that won’t be any different in 2020.
“I’ll feel the same way next year if these guys are all back with me,” Barrett said. “I think we’ll have a good shot at it again.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or