BRISTOL >> RCP hit a speed bump on the Road to Shelby.
Host team Bristol was that speed bump as it knocked off Connecticut champion RCP, 3-2, in the American Legion’s Northeast Regional tournament in front of a crowd of 500 at Muzzy Field Saturday night. That sets up a do-or-die doubleheader Sunday. At 1 p.m., Bristol will play Upper Deck of Cumberland (R.I.), a 3-1 winner over Rochester (N.H.) Saturday.
The winner of that game will play RCP at 4 p.m. for the regional championship and a trip to the World Series which opens in Shelby, N.C. Thursday.
“We’re in a great spot,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “I would have liked to win tonight, but we’ll let the other teams battle it out in the first game. We’re got Cole [Ogorzalek] ready to go and there is no one I’d rather have on the mound than Cole in that spot.”
RCP could have made life much easier had it won, but Bristol got a great effort from Wes Lahey (3-2), who went seven innings and held RCP, which has been hammering teams — to just six singles and two runs, both of which were unearned.
“Lahey did an awesome job,” Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta said. “He texted me last night to tell me he was ready to go and that was despite pitching two days in a row. He got ahead in the count which enabled him to sue his breaking pitches effectively.”
Bristol ace Brad Burney got the save, throwing two innings of one-hit relief.
Both coaches agreed the game turned on two plays.
Bristol scored all three of its runs off Dave Sevigny (5-3) in the third inning and a messed up rundown play was the key to the inning. With runners on first and third and a run in on a triple by Nick Sassu (3-for-4) and a single by Troy Micale, the Bristol runner got too far off first and was trapped in a rundown.
But RCP played it badly and an off-balance throw from first baseman Leo Thomas to the plate bounced allowing a run to score. Had RCP gotten an out, it would have escaped the inning with just one run scoring.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Given an extra out — even though no error was charged — Bristol got a two-out RBI single from Jalen Benoit (2-for-4) for its third run, the run that turned out to be the game-winner.
The second game-turning play came in the RCP third. Tucker Lord opened with a base hit and he went to third on single by Kevin Radziewicz (2-for-3). LaPenta gambled and brought the infield in. The gamble worked as Ogorzalek hit a rocket right at shortstop Micale and he flipped to third to get Lord off the base for the double play.
“We are not a high-scoring team,” LaPenta said. “Every run for us is precious and I didn’t want to give them anything. Hey, we’re playing with house money, so I took a chance and it worked. Sometimes a coach does that and he’s a bum. Sometimes he’s a hero.”
RCP got a soft run in the fourth when Austin White singled, stole second, was balked to third and scored on an error by Micale. The Connecticut champs crept closer in the fifth getting a single run, but it could have been much more.
Radziewicz was hit by a pitch and when Lahey made a wild throw to first on a bunt, RCP had runners on first and third with nobody out. But only one run scored as Cory Baldwin rapped into a 6-4-3 doubleplay as Radziewicz scored.
Sevigny went seven and a third innings and while there were runners on base all the time — he gave up 13 hits, but didn’t walk a man — his mates bailed him out with double plays in the fifth and sixth and by throwing runners out at the plate in the third and fourth.
Sevigny left with bases loaded and one out in the eighth and Matt Osora left them loaded by getting two pop-ups.
“Dave gave us everything we asked,” Grande said. “We just didn’t score runs. We hit the ball hard at times, but they pinched their defense up the middle so they made plays on balls that might otherwise have gone through. But that’s baseball.”
RCP went quietly in the eighth and ninth to fall to 3-1 in the tourney and 31-5 overall.
Bristol is 22-10.