BRISTOL, >> Everything was set up just right for the RCP Legion team in the Northeast Regional tournament.
It won opening night behind Cole Ogorzalek, then won the second night with its second-line pitching duo of Joe Vail and Amir Nitowski. Then, for the key game of the tourney, the Friday night matchup with Upper Deck of Cumberland, R.I., RCP had its second ace, Tucker Lord, rested and ready.
The Connecticut champions looked in great shape early in the Friday night game at Muzzy Field as it took a three-run lead into the third inning and Lord was throwing well.
But the Baseball Gods have a habit upsetting the best of plans. Everything that had looked so good came apart for RCP in the third inning and led to an eventual 9-7 loss, its first of the tournament.
So RCP went from being one win away from a guaranteed berth in the championship game to the difficult task of having to win three games to successfully defend its regional championship. Worse, the loss left RCP with the pitching shorts against Shrewsbury, Mass. (Saturday, 1 p.m. at Muzzy) which has its staff lined up.
“I’ll let you know when I find a pitcher,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “We now have to win three games.”
Cumberland (3-0) is guaranteed to play for the title. It will play Rochester, N.H., Saturday night at 7 — the game may be moved up if weather threatens — and Cumberland can afford to lose as it will play Saturday for the title in any case.
RCP’s third inning began harmlessly enough. Even though an error by shortstop Cory Baldwin — an upset in itself — allowed a runner to score from third, there were two outs and a runner on first. But Lord couldn’t get a third out until Cumberland had already scored six runs.
Cumberland got a single from Chris Wright (2-for-3), then Lord simply lost the plate. He walked two to force in a run, hit another batter to force in run to tie the game and then gave up a bases-clearing, three-run double to Drew Szfranski (2-for-4). Just like that, Cumberland led 6-3.
“We’re a team built on pitching and defense and we didn’t get that tonight,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “The bounces didn’t go our way tonight. We figured to be out of the third inning and in the dugout with a 3-0 lead, but it didn’t happen. Baseball is funny. It gives you a lot, but it takes away a lot.
“Right now I’m kind of at a loss for words over what happened.”
RCP, as it has so often done this summer, bounced right back to tie the game with a three-run rally in the fourth.
Kevin Larkin (2-for-4) walked and Nick Queiroz was hit by a pitch to open the inning. After Noah Budzik bunted the runners up, Baldwin (2-for-3) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ogorzalek singled to left for a run, Austin White hit a sacrifice fly to right for another and Trevor Whalen (2-for-4) singled to center to tie the game.
RCP took a 7-6 lead in the sixth as Grande played small ball again. Baldwin opened with base hit up the middle and after Ogorzalek bunted him to second, White was hit by a pitch. Whalen and Roland Thivierge both walked with Thivierge’s walk forcing in the go-ahead run.
But RCP — which left 12 runners on base — left the bases loaded when Thomas popped up and Larkin struck out.
Grande gave Lord the rest of the night off after five and brought in Thivierge to pitch. After getting the first out, Thivierge got bombed.
Tyler Calabro lined a double down the right field line and Tyler Walsh singled to left to tie the game, 7-7. Wright doubled down the left field line scoring Walsh and Trevor Marques doubled off the wall in right to give Upper Deck a 9-7 lead.
Thivierge then settled down to pitch two and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball, but it was too late.
RCP got two on in the seventh with two out, a runner on with one out in the eighth and a leadoff walk in the ninth, but it was just noise that produced nothing.
The Connecticut champs built their early lead on a leadoff triple by Baldwin and a sacrifice fly by Ogorzalek in the first, and a sacrifice fly by Baldwin and an RBI single by Ogorzalek in the second.
It all looked so promising.