TORRINGTON — Torrington (5-5; 4-5 NVL) exploded out of a melt-down inning Saturday morning, hitching huge bats to lights-out relief pitching for a 14-4 five-inning mercy-rule win against Crosby (1-9) at Fuessenich Park.
Mike Paniati (3-for-3) was all but a home run short of hitting the cycle with a single, double and triple, headlining a 12-hit Red Raider day with six doubles and Paniati’s triple.
Torrington pitcher Adam Vanotti started strong with two strikeouts and just one hit in the first two innings while Torrington bats cranked out seven runs.
Then the unthinkable happened. Vanotti, a sophomore, joined legions of other good pitchers, suddenly losing the strike zone.
The first three batters walked in the top of the third. Jariel Richiez drove in one run with a fielder’s choice. Yeremy Reyes doubled in another.
A hit batter loaded the bases again as a throwing error scored another run. One more came home on a ground-out and suddenly a walk in the park turned into a 7-4 ballgame.
In the midst of a meltdown culminating with the hit batter, Kyle Banche, another Torrington sophomore, came to the mound with ice in his veins.
“It was just another day,” Banche said. “My job was to attack the zone and throw strikes.”
Banche put out the fire, then followed with two no-hit innings with the help of two strikeouts and a pair of great fielding plays on the mound.
Meanwhile, Torrington’s offense also had work to do.
“We just had to keep swinging the bats,” said Torrington lead-off hitter C.J. Root, already in the books for a two-run double in the second, swinging for another two-run double in the fourth.
If the third inning was awful, the fourth was glorious.
With one out, Jake Nilsson opened the floodgates with his second double of the day. Cam Cerutto was hit by a pitch for the second time after smoking a first-inning RBI double.
Then Paniatti, taking the cycle in order, blasted a two-run triple into deep right centerfield for his fourth RBI of the day.
“I just went up there relaxed,” said the big junior, explaining his monster break-out from a long batting slump. “Before this, I was tensing up.”
The hit-fest continued through singles by Casey Navin, Ben Richardson and Banche, a walk to Ryan Ahlman and Root’s double.
When it was over, every Raider in the lineup had at least one run for the day; all but one, at least one hit.
“It was a good day, but we have to do better,” said Torrington coach Pat Richardson. “We can’t afford that kind of inning against the better teams.”
Crosby coach Joe Bandurski took solace in a down year with in an inning-ending double play in the first inning and great plays by freshman third baseman Richard Carabalo and shortstop Reyes in the third.
But Bandurski’s highest praise came for Torrington’s West Point-bound Cerutto: “I was very impressed. He’s the best NVL catcher I’ve seen by far,” Bandurski said.
Torrington 14, Crosby 4 (5)
At Fuessenich Park, Torrington
Crosby 004 00 – 4 2 2
Torrington 250 7X – 14 12 1
WP: Adam Vanotti. LP: El DeJesus. 3B: T – Mike Paniati. 2B: C – Yeremy Reyes. T – C.J. Root 2; Jake Nilsson 2; Cam Cerruto; Paniati.
Records: Crosby 1-9. Torrington 5-5; 4-5 NVL.