BRISTOL - Bristol 17U CTEBA head coach Bill Mason knew that with the loss of spring baseball, offense in the summer would likely take more time than anything else to come around.
So when the CTEBA saved summer baseball by creating a new league for one season after American Legion removed sponsorship due to the coronavirus outbreak, Mason saw a chance for a special season when he saw his team’s impressive pitching depth that would be able to exploit opposing hitters who would still be adjusting to live pitching when the season began.
Turns out, Mason and Bristol rode that strong pitching to the end, shutting out Ellington 10-0 on Sunday afternoon to win the first-ever CTEBA championship.
“Once I realized we had a decent four starting pitchers that we would likely be able to score enough runs to suffice,” Mason said. “I didn't expect to be hitting a well as we were at the end, but we were able to get a little bit of extra practice in and we ended our regular season about a week before the tournament, so it gave us more time to fine-tune some things.”
Bristol’s identity throughout its 16-2 regular season was its run prevention and that carried through the postseason, and eventually to the team’s second state title in three years (it recently won as part of the American Legion league). Bristol allowed just 42 runs over 18 games in the regular season, by far the lowest in Division I. The next highest, West Hartford, allowed 78.
Once the tournament began, where parity can often prevail, Bristol made sure the status quo remained, shutting down RCP, Wallingford and eventually Ellington to clinch the title at Muzzy Field.
“We gave up one run over three days,” Mason said. “Our defense and our pitching really stood out again. We only gave up eight hits over the whole weekend.”
Bristol shut out RCP on Friday to begin the tournament, then continued to show why it was the No. 1 overall seed with a 3-1 victory over Wallingford on Saturday. Heading into the championship game against Ellington, Bristol was admittedly expecting a tough test, especially after Ellington, which led its division with 118 runs scored (the highest mark in the state was Wallingford’s 156 before Bristol contained them in the semifinals), racked up 21 runs in a rout of NCL in its semifinals matchup. But it turned into a blowout after Bristol put up four runs in the second inning and never relented.
“We were definitely surprised,” Mason said. “We were expecting them to come in and really be able to hit, but our pitching shut them down. They only had one hit against us.”
Bristol’s standout pitching prevailed courtesy of Matt Beaucar, who got the start and threw six innings of one-hit ball on his way to tournament MVP.
“He was really able to hit his spots and locate,” Mason said. “He was throwing the ball really well inside and really jamming the hitters.”
Adam Caron was named the top hitter of the tournament after collecting four hits over three days, including a crucial 3-for-3 performance in the semifinals, helping cap off a memorable season that carried an extra sense of appreciation given the circumstances.
“I think it was big for them,” Mason said. “They finally had a chance to play and for the seniors this year, you don't know if they're going to have their senior year, and they already lost their junior season, which is a big year for them. They were able to go out and shine.”
The pitching shined the brightest, just how Mason had hoped when the season began back in July.
“You have to have very good starting pitching and defense to get through, which is what we had all year,” Mason said. “Being able to have a starter take the ball for each game is what really helped us through. They picked up on the type of game I like to play, which is hard-nosed defense and pitching. They really jelled and it couldn't be better. We knew we had a good team and we just had to work hard, and I couldn't be prouder of them.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com