Bristol American Legion baseball set for 'biggest game of the year' against Simsbury

Published on Thursday, 11 July 2019 20:50


BRISTOL - Each time Bristol head coach Jerry LaPenta’s club has dropped a game to one of the best teams American Legion’s Zone 1, his players have answered the bell by winning two of three to take the season series. 

The three-game series against Berlin, Southington and West Hartford all came down to a decisive third game won by Bristol. 

On Friday, LaPenta’s team will get the opportunity to do it again as Bristol (15-5) travels to face Simsbury (14-5) at 5:30 p.m. at Simsbury’s Memorial Park in a grudge match that could decide the Zone 1 champion. 

“We still have won every series we’ve played, and Friday is the biggest game of the year,” LaPenta said. “If we win that game, we hold the tiebreaker and essentially a two-game lead over Simsbury.”

Bristol handed Simsbury a 6-2 defeat on June 19, but Simsbury evened the series with an 11-1 beatdown in five innings on Wednesday to pull within a half-game in the Northern Division standings. In the Southern Division, Southington (14-5) also has a shot at taking the zone crown with two matchups left against Simsbury. 

“[Simsbury’s] got a tough road to go, too,” LaPenta said. “We’ve got four zone games left. If we win four out of four, we win the zone. It’s still in our hands.”

LaPenta said he’s unsure who he will be handing the ball to on Friday, but either Stephen Warkoski or Jagger Duquette would most likely earn the start. 

Wednesday’s 10-run loss came after the team had rebounded from a rough 9-3 loss to Newington on Monday with a big 8-0 victory over West Hartford on Tuesday to take the season series. 

“I think our team has a lot of character,” LaPenta said. “The Newington game was kind of similar to [the Simsbury game]. Things went bad and kept going bad, then we played great against a good West Hartford team. I expect our guys to bounce back and be ready.”

One of the factors LaPenta believes has prepped Bristol’s ability to get back to its winning ways so quickly is the competitiveness of this year’s zone. 

“Most of the games aren’t like [Wednesday’s],” LaPenta said. “This time of year, as pitching gets tired and you can’t go into your bullpen, some guys just have to stay out there and get hammered. They’ve just gotta take it for the team because you can’t use other guys up with the pitch count rules and the days off. You’ve just gotta absorb it sometimes.”

Though LaPenta believes Friday’s game has huge zone champion implications, he said the biggest concern heading into the season wasn’t a zone title, but rather just getting home field advantage in the playoffs, which Bristol is set up to achieve. 

“It’s a nice thing to say you won the zone, but the way the playoffs are set up now, it doesn’t really give you that much of a [rest],” LaPenta said. “You don’t get any days off or a bye. It’s just seeding. We’d either be the one or two seed, and you’re still gonna play a decent team.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, General Sports, St. Paul on Thursday, 11 July 2019 20:50. Updated: Thursday, 11 July 2019 20:53.