BRISTOL - The Bristol Legion baseball team needed just three hits Wednesday night to get past Tri-Town in the second round of the state tournament by a score of 2-1 at Muzzy Field.
Bristol was anchored by a strong performance from starting pitcher Roberto Cruz, who reached his pitch limit with one out remaining in the game after striking out seven and allowing one run. Second baseman Andrew Lozier notched both of the team’s RBI in the game, driving home Austin Brown on both at bats.
“We’re dogs, that’s really what it comes down to,” Lozier said. “We’re confident in our team, confident in ourselves. Every day we just get out there, survive and advance and we’re just confident we can win.”
Bristol will face the winner of Avon at Rotary Field in South Windsor. Bristol went 1-2 against its Zone 1-foe this year and only scored two runs in the two losses, highlighted by 10-1 loss June 15.
Bristol escaped a dangerous situation in the top of the first when Tri-Town pitcher Mason Barber singled to left field with runners on first and second with no outs. Unfortunately for Tri-Town, Trevor Nohilly’s throw to home plate beat the runner easily and then Barber was caught in a rundown in between first and second to complete a peculiar double play.
“That double play was huge, basically that’s the game,” Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta said. “I was shocked that [Tri-Town coach Jason Akana] sent him [home], it would’ve been bases loaded with [their] number four [hitter] up. He sends him and Trevor made a great throw and then [Barber], I don’t know where he was going. Lozier made a great play, looking at the guy at third, ran him back and got the double play. That took a lot of life out of them, that’s a killer when you don’t score after that. I thought Roberto really settled down after that and pitched great.”
Bristol made an impact on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the frame for the second day in a row as Lozier picked up an RBI-single that scored Brown from second base.
“If they had scored in the top of the first inning, all of the pressure would’ve gone on us,” LaPenta said. “We get out of it, we put a run up, now the pressure is on them. When you play with a lead, it’s a totally different mindset.”
The starting pitchers in this game combined for 15 strikeouts as neither team had much consistency offensively. Tri-Town notched seven hits off of Cruz, but struggled to turn them into runs through a combination of mistakes and good defense from Bristol.
“[Cruz] just pitched great,” LaPenta said. “When I need him to throw a breaking ball for a strike, he does. He hits spots and he just competes really hard.”
Bristol added another run with same duo of players as Brown singled to open the bottom of the third, stole second, moved to third on a ground ball and then scored when he got caught in a rundown off of a grounder to third from Lozier and Tri-Town’s catcher Brayden Akana dropped the ball as Brown slid into home.
“They’re pitcher threw great, he had a good arm, he settled in,” LaPenta said. “In the fifth and sixth innings I was taking a few more pitches just to get his pitch count up, but then they brought in another guy who threw just as hard.”
Tri-Town took a run back in the top of the fourth inning behind a single from Eric Mathewson that drove in Hamilton Barnes from second. Mathewson’s hit was his team’s fifth of the day to earn its first run while Bristol led 2-1 with two hits at the time.
“After we got out of that jam, we had all the momentum,” LaPenta said. “Austin did a great job working a walk, beats the ground ball, that’s huge speed, then Lozier gets a little of the end of the bat and we get a run there.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.