BRISTOL – It had to be Avon.
Bristol Legion baseball's 1-0 loss to Avon during the semifinal round of the senior state tournament marked its third loss of the season to Post 201, with the final blow on Thursday ending its impressive season.
No other team beat Bristol more than once all summer long as the top team in Zone 1 lost just six games in zone competition. West Hartford, Meriden and Naugatuck claimed wins over Bristol, but Avon seemed to be the one team that consistently gave Jerry LaPenta's squad trouble.
“The first time we played them we were missing half the team because of graduation,” LaPenta said. “That game doesn't really count. Then the second time we played them we beat them at home. Then when we played them at their place it was 0-0 until the sixth inning, they got one big hit and broke it open. They've all been very close games, except for the first one.”
During the second game of the season June 15, Avon rolled to a 10-1 win. Two weeks later, Bristol got revenge with a 3-1 victory, before Avon took the last two contests by scores of 4-0 and 1-0.
“Pretty evenly-matched teams, it's just a matter of executing,” LaPenta said.
Bristol made one costly mistake during the semifinal bout in an otherwise flawless performance. Pitcher Matt Beaucar left a two-strike, two-out fastball over the plate and Avon's Matt Leopold took it the other way for an RBI single in the top of the seventh inning.
Bristol proceeded to get the tying runner on base in the bottom half of the inning, but couldn't bring him home in the frustrating defeat.
“I'm not going to blame Matty because he pitched a great game,” LaPenta said. “It just leaked back over the plate.”
Beaucar was the winning pitcher in Bristol's victory June 30th against Avon, throwing a complete-game four-hitter, however he fell just short this time around with a spot for the Northern Region title game on the line.
“It was a good baseball game, we played hard, we made good plays, they made good plays,” LaPenta said.
Leopold, on the other hand, hadn't thrown against Bristol in any of the previous matchups, yet looked confident throughout the seven-inning win. Leopold gave up two hits while setting aside four Bristol batters on strikes in, remarkably, his first start of the season.
Avon's Daniel Bae recorded the other two wins on the mound against Bristol, but pitched in its playoff opener against Ellington on Tuesday.
While Thursday's loss will leave a sour taste in its mouth, most of this year's Bristol squad will return next summer, and you could bet it'll be eyeing its first game against Avon in 2022.
“I get a big chunk of them back, so we should have a solid team next year,” LaPenta said. “We're losing some big keys but all the core guys are coming back, all my pitchers, so we should be in good shape next summer.”
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.