TORRINGTON >> For nine-and-a-half innings, pitching and spectacular defensive plays kept No. 27 Bethel and No. 6 Torrington struggling for the break-through run in a Class L first-round baseball game at Fuessenich Park Monday afternoon.
With one out in the bottom of the 10th after one more great play — a diving catch by Wildcat left fielder Jake Roper — Torrington freshman Dom Sabia laced a double to right center field. Matt Baril drew a walk. Then Shane Bierfeldt, Torrington’s pitcher into the ninth inning (8.2 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 6 strikeouts, 6 walks, 1 hit batter), stood up against Bethel’s Matt Liquori (9.2 innings, 1 earned run, 6 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 hit batters) one more time.
Biefeldt’s grounder to short looked like one more escape for Liquori — a 6-4-3 double play ball to end the inning.
Instead, the relay to first was wide. Sabia streaked home from second.
Torrington walked off with the 2-1 win.
“This time of year, everything tightens up,” said Torrington coach Pat Richardson. “It doesn’t matter what the records are. The team that executes wins.”
“We applied pressure; they made the plays,” said Bethel coach Ray Turek.
Both teams executed major escapes.
Torrington loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth and came away empty.
Bethel did the same thing in the top of the ninth.
The Raiders won the prize early and late with spectacular saves.
First came the runs.
In the top of the third, Bierfeldt walked Joe Liquori. The Wildcat stole second and got to third on a wild pitch.
Alex Amaral was hit by a pitch. Matt Liquori hit a fielder’s choice that chased Joe Liquori home, 1-0.
Torrington got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Ben Thompson grounded a hit down the third base line, then stole second.
John McCarthy hit up the middle for the tie, 1-1.
Next inning, in a game of three or four lives for Torrington, the Raiders spent one of them.
Wildcat Nick Luhrs led off with a hit. Cadyn Clark (3-for-5) followed with a single to right center.
Luhrs made it to third on Clark’s hit, then broke for home when a wild pitch got away. Torrington catcher Thompson raced after it, flipped to Bierfeldt at the plate. The lefty swept his glove down on Luhrs just as the slide came in.
Liquori and Bierfeldt trucked on, tension growing with every inning.
With just three hits against Liquori through seven innings, the Raiders loaded the bases without a hit in the bottom of the eighth.
Ben Bonvicini and Bierfeldt walked with two outs. Liquori hit Mitch Zagrodnik with a pitch.
Liquori went after his sixth strikeout of the game for the third out.
“He’s the epitome of a pitcher,” said Coach Turek. “He hits his spots and changes speeds.”
In the top of the ninth, Bethel replayed the scenario. With two outs, pinch hitter Taylor Vooris lined a hit up the middle.
Bierfeldt walked the next two batters, loading the bases.
“I was definitely tiring down,” said the senior, remembering pitching trips through four other extra-inning marathons this season.
This time, Bierfeldt and right fielder Josh Rubino changed places.
“I was nervous, but they told me I was the first reliever,” said the junior right-hander.
A fielder’s choice on Rubino’s second pitch ended the inning, leaving the day’s most dramatic Torrington saves for the top of the 10th.
Wildcat Zak Hottes led off with a single, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Jake Roper lined a single to left.
Hottes rounded third, heading for home, then stopped as left fielder Sabia fired to Stanly Rijo at shortstop.
Rijo’s throw to third baseman Zagrodnik beat Hottes by inches.
The pressure came again.
Luhrs replaced Roper with a fielder’s choice. Clark hit a long single to left center field.
Luhrs raced around the bases, halfway down the third base line when Stanley Rijo took the throw from Manny Rijo in center, turned and threw to the plate.
Thompson had the throw with two steps to spare.
“They executed,” said Coach Turek.
Sabia came up one with one out in the bottom of the 10th.
“I was just trying to get on,” he said.
Liquori, who heads for Division III Union College (Schenectady, New York) next fall, relied on his curve in the later innings.
Sabia caught one bending outside and ripped it to right center for the only extra-base hit of the game.
Bierfeldt and an error did the rest.
Torrington is back today against No. 11 Maloney, 3:30 p.m., Fuessenich Park, for round two.
No. 6 Torrington 2, No. 27 Bethel 1 (10)
At Fuessenich Park, Torrington
Bethel 001 000 000 0—1 8 4
Torrington 001 000 000 1—2 4 1
WP: Josh Rubino. LP: Matt Liquori. 2B: Dom Sabia.
Records: Bethel 9-12; Torrington 17-6.