BRISTOL - Pairings for the American Legion baseball state tournament have been set, and Bristol (18-6) will face East Hartford/Manchester (11-11) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Muzzy Field in the first round of pod play.
Also in Pod D are Glastonbury (14-8) and Jewett City (15-9), one of whom Bristol will play Sunday in its second game of the double-elimination format.
With at least one win in either of those two games, Bristol will play at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The final day of pod play begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday with another game to follow, if necessary.
“Whoever we play, each team will have some decent pitching to start out,” Bristol head coach Jerry LaPenta said. “They’ll all be tough games.”
Bristol was scheduled for a 1 p.m. game, but due to the projected heat of nearly 100 degrees on Saturday, first pitch was moved up to 10 a.m., providing LaPenta’s club with an added edge.
“That’s an advantage to us because we don’t have to get up at 7 o’clock or 7:30 to get on the road,” LaPenta said. “We don’t have to do that so that’s an advantage for us.”
Also aiding Bristol will be the availability of its pitching staff. Trevor Mays pitched a complete-game, three-hit shutout in a 3-0 win over Avon on Tuesday. He won’t be eligible to pitch until Sunday’s game, but LaPenta said he had not planned on using the Bristol Eastern right-hander anyway on Saturday.
Saturday’s probable starter Jagger Duquette, plus arms such as Stephen Warkoski, Ethan Ryan and Alex Balfour, will all be good to go if called upon, but LaPenta has not cemented his rotation.
“I haven’t really committed [to a rotation],” LaPenta said. “We’re gonna have to see who we’re playing and see what their strengths are. When I’ve called on them, everybody’s pretty much pitched really well. I wouldn’t necessarily say anybody’s a definite No. 1 for us.”
Though LaPenta says he believes all of his pitchers have been solid on the mound throughout the year, and that he does have an idea of who he wants to trot out onto the rubber, he still wants to take a wait-and-see approach.
“It’s a double-elimination tournament so I wanna see who we play first and then who we may see in the second game; if they have a lot of right- or left-handed batters and who faces up better for that; what their offensive numbers are,” LaPenta said. “I probably won’t do anything too crazy. I’ll probably just stay with the way we’ve been going.”
One of Bristol’s goals this season was to win a zone title, but that didn’t happen, as Simsbury got hot, winning the season series and securing the head-to-head tiebreaker to overtake Bristol for the Zone 1 crown.
However, with a retooled playoff format that doesn’t reward the zone champion with a first-round bye in the postseason, the reward for winning the zone is lessened.
“I would like to have the title, but in years past it meant a lot more,” LaPenta said. “Winning the title is not as important as it used to be. It still would be nice to win it, but either way … I’m still happy with the way the regular season went.”
So despite finishing behind Simsbury (18-6) in the zone standings, Bristol (18-6) was still the second-best team in the zone this season, just above Southington (17-7), and it will get a home game in the first round of the Northern Division Sectional Tournament.
“I’m happy we put ourselves in a good position, and we have a couple home games to start,” LaPenta said. “It’s always better to have a home game and be the home team, and obviously playing at Muzzy is great.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org