LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield Cowboys hammered out 16 hits in an 11-6 Tri-State Baseball League fireworks display with the Wolcott Scrappers Saturday in the first game of a best-of-three second-round league tournament series.
“We came out swinging,” said player/coach Brooks Belter. “We made the hits and the proper plays, which is essential for us because we’re not really a power-hitting team.”
Nevertheless, there was power to spare for both teams at Litchfield High School amidst a barrage of hits in which none of the five pitchers (3-2 Litchfield) except Belter himself as Litchfield’s closer, claimed the right to feel safe.
Wolcott added 11 hits to the volume while the teams combined for two triples (1-1) and four doubles (3-1 Litchfield) over the nine innings.
The Cowboys, third in the 17-team league’s regular season at 15-4, started first with four runs in the second inning, batting around their order on hits by Drew Gauvain (4-for-5, double, RBI, 2 runs), Belter (double, 3 runs), Stanley Rijo (3-for-5, double, 4 RBI, 2 runs) and Tommy Johnson (2-for-6, double, 2 RBI, run), a walk and a Wolcott error.
The two-run single by Johnson served notice to pitchers on a day for hitters and smart base runners. Johnson’s blast landed a quarter of the way up the bank in deep left field, but Robby Johnson, on base with the error, held up between first and second in case the catch was made.
Meanwhile, Litchfield starter Justin Koutros’ first three innings pointed to a field day for the Cowboys, who split their two-game regular-season series with the Scrappers — 12-8 in fifth place in the regular season and 11-3, 1-0 winners over the Tribury Cave in the tournament’s first round.
Koutros gave up two walks and no hits in those first three innings. Wolcott scored in the top of the fourth on their first two hits, by Jack Drewry (3-for-4, double, RBI) and Ike Negretti, but Litchfield added another run in the bottom of the inning on a double by Johnson and Steve Harrison’s RBI single.
On a day when humidity made it seem hotter than last weekend’s mid-90s, Wolcott reliever Alan Stinson replaced starter Negretti in the bottom of the fifth. The former Shepaug High School ace sailed through one inning, then hit the Litchfield buzz saw in the bottom of the sixth.
Ed Pequignot started with a one-out triple, followed by doubles from Gauvain and Rijo, singles by Rob Taylor (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs) and Robby Johnson and a walk.
When the smoke cleared, Litchfield had another five runs and an insurmountable 10-1 lead.
The Scrappers disagreed. They touched Koutros for two hits in the sixth inning and started the seventh with two more, by Cam Maldinado (run) and Stinson (run). That brought Taylor to the mound for a taste of his own misery on a miserable day for most pitchers.
Wolcott’s Matt Warren (2-for-4, 2 runs); Jeff Nicol (RBI, run); and Tyler Smith (2-run triple) combined with a walk to Negretti to produce four runs and stamp the name Scrappers on the day.
Another Wolcott run in the top of the eighth on Warren’s second hit and a double by Drewry made 10-6 suddenly uncomfortable for Litchfield.
The Cowboys solved their discomfort in three ways. Belter, a pitcher drafted by the Rays in 2011, finishing his professional career in 2015 after Tommy John surgery, came on to pitch four straight outs, including a pair of strikeouts. Litchfield scored one more run in the bottom of the eighth on a walk, an error and a groundout. And third baseman Harrison made a great catch on a pop foul to end the game.
The series goes to Wolcott’s BAW Complex today at 6 p.m. as three other league games march toward the league semifinals beginning August 13.