TORRINGTON >> Torrington’s P38 American Legion team came from behind in a tense game Wednesday night, beating Unionville 3-2 in nine innings at Fuessenich Park.
“That’s a gutsy team. They played really well,” said Unionville coach Gerard Roy. “I used everyone on my bench.”
That included three Unionville pitchers while Litchfield’s Evan Shortsleeve (2 earned runs, 8 hits, 8 strikeouts, 3 walks) labored through all nine for Torrington.
“I’ve pitched eight before, but never nine. It was fine,” said Shortsleeve, who heads for Norwich University (Northfield, Vermont) in the fall.
“We had to use him,” said R.J. Poniatoski. “We’re playing six games in a row.”
Unionville (1-5) got two runs in the second inning and hung on, building opportunities for more in four separate innings.
“We didn’t get any timely hitting,” said Coach Roy.
It was worse for Coach Poniatoski. Torrington (2-3) had runners in scoring position four times before the P38s put anything on the scoreboard, in the seventh.
“We were sleeping for six innings and we woke up in time to win it,” he said. “I told them to try to get here for the first inning tomorrow (Winsted at Torrington, 7 p.m.).”
The wait built a mountain of excitement when Torrington tied it in the bottom of the seventh, then put it away two innings later.
The near-misses earlier were a tightrope walk for the pitchers.
Unionville got its two-run stake on a leadoff walk by Tom Siunta in the top of the second, a double by Dan Paul and a two-run single by Mike Weber.
Then the stare-downs began.
In the bottom of the second, Unionville starter Paul (6.1 innings, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts, 5 walks) got out of a leadoff walk to Roberto Santiago with a double play, then climbed into another near-jam with a walk to John Swanson and a double by Nick Andro.
Andro screamed his grounder over the third base bag. Swanson, starting from first, headed home. A relay from left fielder Tyler Johnson to third baseman Jack Roy to Colin Brantner at home caught Swanson at the plate.
In the top of the third, Brantner (3-for-4) slammed a two-out triple and stayed put.
Unionville turned another double play in the bottom of the inning.
In all, Torrington stranded 12 runners; Unionville left eight.
Still trailing 2-0, the P38s faced up to their last chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Jason Vinisko (2-for-3) started with a ground single through the left side. Connor Rollins (3-for-4, 2 runs) drew a one-out walk.
Ethan Finn (0.2 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 hits, 1 walk) took over for Paul on the Unionville mound.
John McCarthy (2-for-5) loaded the bases with a single to short right field.
Sam Shurberg followed with a grounder to the right side. A toss to second got McCarthy while Vinisko hustled home from third.
The throw back to first, trying for another double play, went wild. Rollins raced in for the tie, 2-2.
Unionville had its golden chance in the eighth, loading the bases on a hit by Roy, double by Brantner and a walk to Bailey Meccariello.
Shortsleeve reeled off his seventh strikeout for the second out; a pop-up to McCarthy at second got the third.
“I start with my slider in the first couple of innings, then, if that’s working throw in my curve,” said Shortsleeve, keeping Unionville off-balance when it counted most.
Unionville went down one, two, three in the top of the ninth.
On his way to coaching first base in the bottom of the inning, Torrington assistant coach Eric Mahar said flatly, “This is it.”
He was right.
Rollins started with a single. McCarthy beat out a bunt.
Shurberg, 0-for-4 through eight innings, stepped into the batter’s box, facing Chiraq Sikka (1 earned run, 3 hits, 1 strikeout), pitching the eighth and ninth innings for Unionville.
“On the first pitch, he hung a curve. Then he came with a fastball,” said Shurberg. “I was looking for him to hang a curve again.”
Bingo. His line drive filled the gap in right center field. Rollins wheeled around third into the crowd of P38s waiting for him at the plate.
“That’s a good lesson,” said Poniatoski. “It doesn’t matter what you did before. You’ve got to shake that out of your head.”
Tonight, the first inning against Winsted begins at 7 p.m., Fuessenich Park.
Torrington P38s 3, Unionville 2 (9)
At Fuessenich Park, Torrington
Unionville 020 000 000—2 8 1
Torrington 000 000 201—3 11 1
WP: Evan Shortsleeve. LP: Sharrod Sikke. 3B: U—Colin Brentnar. 2B: U—Brentnar; Dan Paul. T—Nick Andro.
Records: Unionville 1-5; Torrington 2-3.