BRISTOL - Of course it comes down to this.
All season, regular or post, the Forestville Dodgers and McCabe-Waters Astros have fought each other in close matchups, so it comes as no surprise the City Series title has been whittled down to one final game between the two little league programs.
After the Dodgers beat the Astros 4-1 in the regular season - a 2-1 game into the sixth - they handed the Astros another defeat, 7-4, in their first City Series meeting last Monday, having to fend off a late rally as McCabe-Waters scored two runs and loaded the bases in the final inning.
The Astros returned the favor two days ago, as Mason Allen’s complete-game two-hit shutout paved the way for a 3-0 victory that set up a decisive final game for the right to hoist the City Series trophy (6 p.m. Wednesday night at Breen Field).
“Every game has been close, and I expect nothing less than that Wednesday,” Forestville manager Clay Roberts said. “We’ve played them three times now, and three times this year, it’s been close, and it’s gonna be close again. Whoever makes the plays on Wednesday and whoever gets the timely hits will walk away a champion.”
It was the Astros making those timely plays in round three, and it was yet another different formula of winning for a team that has made a habit of diversifying its portfolio.
“Every game is different,” McCabe-Waters manager Matt Pirog said. “That’s what we talk about - another way. We found another way to win [Monday]. We played small ball. We had great pitching and outstanding defense. … I can’t be prouder of the kids. They did everything that we asked them to do.”
The defense Pirog refers to specifically were a pair of late plays that proved crucial in stifling a potential Dodgers rally in the bottom of the sixth.
First, second baseman Mike Demers leapt into the air to catch a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Hector Rivera-Martinez. A few pitches later, Dante DePass smoked a fly ball to the right field corner, but Landon Levesque made an over-the-shoulder catch for the second out before Allen retired the next hitter.
“I didn’t see [Landon’s catch], but I heard it was amazing,” Pirog said. “My defense emerged with some great catches in that inning. Everybody made the plays we were supposed to make, and that’s the way baseball’s supposed to be played. They limited mistakes and did really well.”
Roberts, meanwhile, wasn’t surprised or upset after the loss, chalking it up to running into a good team whose pitcher threw an outstanding game (Allen finished with eight strikeouts and no walks).
But right after answering questions following his team’s loss, Roberts immediately wanted to add an important detail on his team and how it has been able to reach the point of coming within one win of a City Series title.
“These Dodgers are so fortunate to have had the pleasure to have a dedicated coach to have the passion that he has in Jimmy Deschaine,” Roberts said.
Deschaine, a Bristol Eastern grad who played in the minor leagues at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels, has been an excellent source for the players to look up to and learn from.
“He keeps these guys in line. He helps them in their hitting. He has so much knowledge with the game,” Roberts said. “The reason that all of these Dodgers are so successful is because of him, really. It just has to be said, and he really needs the acknowledgement. He’s done a tremendous job. He goes above and beyond what any other coach does.”
Before, during or after practice, Roberts says, Deschaine works his tail off, and his fingerprints are all over the Dodgers’ great run this summer.
“It’s tremendous what he does. He’s the real deal,” Roberts said. “He is the main reason the Dodgers play the way they play. I can’t say enough about him. … For the coaches to have the opportunity to work with him this year, win or lose on Wednesday, it’s been great.”
Deschaine and Roberts will be motivating their team and pulling strings on Wednesday, as will Pirog on the other side. But whoever wins, and however it occurs, respect won’t fall by the wayside.
“Coach Pirog got his team ready,” Roberts said following Monday’s loss. “They came out, and you can’t get your team any more ready than they were [Monday]. They were fired up. We were fired up, but somebody has to lose. … We’re looking forward to Wednesday night, and we’re looking forward to playing Dodger ball.”
It sets up to be a tight, back-and-forth contest, and Pirog would have it no other way.
“That team is an outstanding team,” Pirog said of Forestville. “It’s a well-coached team and I think it’ll be another great game on Wednesday. That’s what I’m looking forward to. That’s the way it should be. The two best teams playing each other one last time. We’ve been battling all year with them.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org