EAST HARTFORD >> Freddy Cruz Jr. kept the ball down and his infielders kept it in front.
The senior East Hartford pitcher induced 12 ground ball outs, 11 to the left side, to keep South Windsor at bay and defeat the Bobcats, 3-2, at McKenna Field on Friday.
“My little kid Freddy Cruz just throws enough to get by,” East Hartford coach Mike McDermott said. “He competes.”
“He doesn’t throw the ball 80 miles per hour by any means. But he has enough pitches to keep the hitters off balance and if we play defense for him, we’re usually in the games.”
Cruz did just that: kept them off balance. The Bobcats were rolling over the ball, feeding third baseman Manuel Alejandro and shortstop Frantz Innocent.
“We gave them a real nice left side infield practice today, unfortunately,” South Windsor coach Jim Abbott said.
South Windsor (8-4) starter David Caye kept the Hornets quiet in all but the second inning.
With runners on second and third and one out, Innocent squared, bunted and pushed the ball just far enough away from home plate to let Christian Caballero slide home safely on a suicide squeeze.
“We haven’t been scoring a lot of runs,” McDermott said. “So the third inning was a big inning for us. It was good to see the kids execute it.”
Caballero had led off the inning with a single to left and Alejandro followed with a double. Alejandro scored on a RBI single from Jake Prattson, who then stole second. The throw from the catcher Michael Kelly got away and allowed Innocent to score.
East Hartford led 3-0.
“They had the one big inning,” Abbott said. “Other than that I thought our guy did a real good job on the mound. He didn’t get any support.”
South Windsor attempted a comeback in the fourth.
The No. 2 and No. 3 batters in the order reached to start the inning and both scored. Nicholas Nowak came in on a Michael Bastis double, who later scored on a RBI single from Adam Bettigole.
The Bobcats stranded runners on second and third in the fourth and four total in the game.
“We had a couple of opportunities with guys in scoring position,” Abbott said. “With who we wanted up and we just were not able to deliver the big blow.”
The win gives East Hartford seven this season and one away from qualifying for the state tournament.
“We haven’t been winning a lot of games,” McDermott said. “So it’s nice to come back and win this game. South Windsor’s a good team.”
The Hornets have six games remaining which means six chances to qualify for the tournament, although they know it won’t be easy.
“Our last six games are against very good opponents in our league and we’re going to have to win another tough ballgame,” McDermott said. We’re not going to blow anyone out. Our goals is to get eight wins, get our foot in the tournament and see what happens.”
South Windsor qualified for the tournament with its 4-3 win over Fermi on Wednesday. But, after Friday’s game, Abbott said he needs to make some changes.
“We need to score more than three runs and we’re going to have to make some adjustments to the lineup,” he said.
East Hartford begins the quest for win number eight on Monday vs. East Catholic at 6 p.m.
South Windsor still has a shot at the CCC North title. It is a game behind East Catholic and Manchester and can make up a game vs. Manchester on Monday in South Windsor.