BRISTOL >> Whether it was leading RCP’s junior legion team to the state finals a year ago, Portland High School to the Class S championship this spring, or RCP’s senior legion team to a key win against West Hartford en route to a Zone 7 title this summer, Cole Ogorzalek has relished being on the mound when the stakes are at the absolute highest.
So it was easy to see why RCP coach Jay Hickey was comfortable giving the ball to Ogorzalek in the opening game of the American Legion North Division Super Regionals against Waterford on Saturday. Getting the ball back from his righthander after eight superb innings and a 4-1 lead? Well, Hickey would have had an easier time trying to steal Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend.
“Cole’s been a gamer all his life,” Hickey explained. “We were going to take him out and he said, ‘do not take me out.’ He wanted the ball. And he earned the right. He was throwing strikes and his curveball was working. He pitched a great game.”
Ogorzalek completed his gem by firing two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning as RCP (Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland) moved another step closer to the state finals with a 4-1 victory over Waterford at Muzzy Field.
“They tried to take me out after eight and I know I had a high pitch count but my arm felt fine,” Ogorzalek said. “I wanted to finish it off and I was happy I was able to.”
Ogorzalek overcame a shaky start. After Kevin Johnson and Griffen Archambault drew one-out walks in the top of the first, Kyle Willoughby laced an RBI single to center and Waterford had a 1-0 lead.
Waterford (24-9), which swept a season-ending series from Niantic to win the Zone 6 title, threatened again in the second when Adam Goss and Jesse Coates each singled with one out. But Ogorzalek got Brent Conderino to hit a comebacker for a 1-6-3 double play.
“My first inning is usually my worst so once I got through that I started to loosen up,” said Ogorzalek. “I got into a groove and settled down. I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes, which really helped me out, and I was able to keep them off balance.”
Ogorzalek, who gave up seven hits while striking out 12, allowed just two hits over the next five innings.
“He was able to throw his curve ball for strikes on almost any count,” said Waterford coach Kevin Irvine. “And he was working fast and got into a rhythm. We had a couple of innings where we barely sat down in the dugout and we were already heading out onto the field.”
Waterford, however, got the tying run to the plate in the eighth after two-out singles from Johnson and Archambault. But Willoughby hit a high infield fly for the third out.
Ogorzalek’s counterpart, righthander Mike McDermott, also went the distance. McDermott scattered 10 hits, walked two and struck out eight.
“Our pitcher did a great job for us,” said Irvine. “He’s a competitor and we knew he wasn’t going to back down. We knew going in that RCP had a very good team. I’m really proud of the way our guys battled.”
Alex Ramirez (three RBIs) powered RCP’s offensive attack with a clutch two-out two-run single in the bottom of the first, giving RCP a 2-1 lead.
“That was a clutch at bat for them,” said Irvine. “The kid hit a nice pitch, a line drive right up the middle, just like the way you’re taught.”
Waterford centerfielder Will Sherman made a sensational leaping catch in the right center gap to rob Christian Budzik of an RBI double in the fourth inning.
But RCP (20-4) extended its lead to 4-1 in the fifth.
Dave Sevigny led off by being hit with a pitch. Tom Seaver (2-for-5) singled to center and Kevin Radziewicz loaded the bases with a nifty bunt single. After Chris Bouchard hit into a fielder’s choice – Waterford shortstop Jesse Coates made a great play fielding a grounder into the hole and throwing Sevigny out at the plate – Cory Baldwin lofted an RBI single to center and Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to right that scored Radziewicz.
“One of our best attributes is we’ve all won and we’ve all been here before,” said Ogorzalek. “We’re not nervous going into these types of games and we feel like we belong here, which is I think a big part of why we’ve had success this year.”
RCP will face Simsbury in a winner’s bracket game today (3:30 p.m.) at Muzzy Field. Simsbury (21-6) defeated Tolland, 6-1, in the first game of the doubleheader.
“Now, it makes today’s game that much bigger,” said Hickey. “Simsbury’s a very good team so it’s going to be a tough game. But every game you’ve got to turn the page and keep winning.”