CROMWELL >> One down and a long way to go.
Defending Northeast Regional American Legion champion RCP erupted for nine late-inning runs to beat West Hartford, 9-0, in the first game of the best-of-three series for a berth in the double elimination phase of the state tourney that begins Saturday.
The second game of the series is today at 1:30 p.m. at Fran Monnes Field at Cromwell High. If West Hartford wins, a third and deciding game will be played immediately following the first game.
This was a 0-0 game until the fifth when RCP broke through for three runs. That was more than enough for RCP starter Tommy Seaver, who struck out nine and allowed just four hits in eight innings.
“That was a big-time performance by our No. 1 pitcher,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “A lot of teams think of Tucker [Lord] and Cole [Ogorzalek] when they think of our pitching. But Tommy pitched at the college level for Salve Regina and he knows how to pitch. He threw exactly 100 pitches and gave us everything we wanted.”
West Hartford (17-8) ran itself out of a couple of scoring opportunities before RCP broke through. Jon Greenfield hit a two-out double in the fourth, but Seaver promptly picked him off to end the inning.
Henry Fracasso opened the fifth with a double, but when Joe Celio bunted through a pitch, Fracasso committed too soon and found himself in no man’s land between second and third. Catcher Kevin Radziewicz easily threw him out at third.
RCP didn’t have a hit going to the fifth. Radziewicz opened the inning with a walk, but was thrown out attempting to steal. Ogoralek walked and Cory Baldwin (2-for-4) shot one over the bag at first for a double.
At least umpire Barry Chasen said it was over the bag.
“We thought it was foul,” West Hartford coach Elliot Lane said. “The game turned on that call. But we got no runs, so we can’t complain. We couldn’t generate any offense.”
After Baldwin’s double, Chris Bouchard was intentionally walked and Lane brought Jake George in relief of his starter, Sam Dobbins, who took the loss.
George didn’t miss any bats.
On an 0-2 pitch, Kevin Larkin (2-for-5) put RCP on the board with a hard two-run single to right. Dave Sevigny (2-for-3) followed with another hard single for a run to give the Zone 7 champions a 3-0 lead.
The winners added another run in the sixth after a two-out throwing error by George on a bunt by Ogorzalek, who ran all the way to third. He scored on a base hit by Baldwin.
RCP put the game away with a five-run eighth, a rally highlighted by another two-run single by Larkin and run-producing ground balls by Lord and Leo Thomas. The fifth run scored on a wild pitch.
“As I’ve said, hitting is probably our weakest part, but we had people step up today,” Grande said. “We moved Larkin up to the fifth spot and he had two, two-run hits. Guys are stepping up. But we have a long way to go and we’ll start Lord next with Ogorzalek ready.
“I’m hoping we’ll put some early runs on the board.”
Lane said his club will give it its best shot.
“We’ll go with [Pat] McHale, our ace, hope to win that game and play a second,” Lane said.