BRISTOL >> Back in June, the players for the RCP American Legion team dedicated themselves to three goals. First was winning the Zone 7 title, second was winning the state championship, and third was winning the Northeast Regional Championship and returning to the World Series in Shelby, N.C.
The Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland team punched its ticket to Shelby with a 5-0 win over Bristol in the championship game in front of 506 paying customers at Muzzy Field Sunday.
“This is unbelievable,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “To be with this group of kids makes me so proud. They all contributed and I’m so happy in my first year to be taking them to Shelby.”
RCP (32-5) will play Midland (Mich.) in its first game of the World Series on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Skeeter Stadium. RCP will play New Orleans (La.) on day two and will not play on day three. Each team is guaranteed to play three games under the pool play format adopted last year.
“We have a close group,” said Kevin Radziewicz (3-for-4), who was the tourney’s MVP. “We never feel pressure; we’re always relaxed in the dugout and it feels good not only to win this, but that we won a state championship to get here.”
RCP took a 1-0 first-inning lead on a leadoff single by Radziewicz, a wild pitch, and a two-out, line single to center by Chris Bouchard. The Connecticut champions hurt themselves with some bad baserunning in the second.
Austin White (2-for-4) was thrown out attempting to seal and Dave Sevigny ran into an out at third on a ground ball to short. Still, RCP went on to score twice on a bases-loaded, two-run single by Tucker Lord.
Bristol pitchers then proceeded to set down 11 RCP batters in a row before Kevin Larkin was hit by a pitch in the sixth. Meanwhile, RCP starter Cole Ogorzalek took a shutout into the sixth. He got out of a two-on, no out jam in the fourth, and stranded a leadoff double in the sixth, thanks in part to a sensational stop at shortstop by Cory Baldwin.
He was untouchable the rest of the way.
“When Cole got out of that inning, I knew the game was ours,” Grande said. “He is the best big-game pitcher. He always wants the ball in a big spot. He’s wanted this game all season.”
Ogorzalek (6-1) went the distance. He allowed five hits, struck out five and walked two in a dominating performance.
“We knew we were ready tonight,” Ogorzalek said. “We knew they [Bristol] were tired. They had just played 12 innings and we were rested. We wanted to make our mark. I think we rank up there with the best Connecticut Legion teams of all time.”
Ogorzalek said he’s looking forward to Midland, which beat Alton (Ill.), 14-4.
“We played them last year and we lost in a walkoff,” he said. “We should have beaten them. We know we belong. Last year it was all new and we were maybe a little scared. But now we’re ready.”
RCP didn’t get a hit after the second inning until Nick Queiroz doubled with one out in the seventh. Radziewicz followed with a base hit to give RCP a 4-0 lead and with two outs, Baldwin singled home Radziewicz and RCP was home free at 5-0.
“My kids played their guts out,” said Bristol coach Jerry LaPenta, whose team beat Upper Deck of Cumberland (R.I.), 9-8, in 12 innings earlier in the day.
“We did all we could, but we were running on fumes. But give credit to Ogorzalek. He did a great job throwing his breaking ball for strikes. We had a couple of opportunities in the middle innings, but we couldn’t get a big hit when we needed it.”
Ricky Lemke (1-2) started and lost for Bristol. RCP had 10 hits off of four Bristol pitchers. Troy Micale had two of Bristol’s five hits.
Leave it to Ogorzalek to put a cap on this one.
“We felt we would be in good shape if we put up some early runs,” Ogorzalek said. “We did that. I just think all this proves that Connecticut is a superior baseball state.”