LITCHFIELD — Torrington completed a storybook late-season march to the Class L tournament Wednesday afternoon, pulling away from a feisty young Litchfield team for a 10-5 win at Litchfield High School in eight innings.
The Raiders’ third win in a row competed their regular season with just enough wins to join five other 8-12 schools for the final spots in Class L’s 35-team lineup in the tournament beginning next week.
“This game was a microcosm of our season; we succeed late,” smiled Coach Pat Richardson after Litchfield overcame an early 5-0 Torrington lead to launch the game into an extra inning.
“We had enough heart to get back in it against a bigger school,” said Cowboy coach Kyle Weaver, proud of a Class S team starting four sophomores after suffering through an otherwise-disappointing 3-17 season in the Berkshire League.
Still, it was hard to match Torrington’s three-game display.
The NVL’s Raiders, presumed non-qualifiers for a tournament that requires eight wins (40 percent) when they lined up against WCA at Fuessenich Park Saturday night, came from behind in that game with a two-run homer by Ben Richardson in the final inning.
Next stop was Ansonia on Monday, when Richardson took the mound for six innings, keeping the Raiders alive for a 4-3 win over the Chargers.
Wednesday’s game at Litchfield began as a cake-walk when the Raiders scored four runs in the first inning on hits by Aaron Bainer (2-for-5, 2 runs), Kyle Banche (3-for-5, double, 3 RBI, run) and Adam Vanotti (2-for-4, double, 2 RBI, run), along with two Cowboy errors.
Vanotti, Torrington’s starting pitcher, sailed through three innings, dancing out of a two-out bases-loaded threat in the third inning unscathed.
Litchfield starter Jared Guilmart recovered from Torrington’s opening burst with two easy innings of his own, but the Raiders added one more run in the top of the fourth on hits by Bainer, Banche and C.J. Root.
A 5-0 Torrington lead looked like a punched ticket for states.
The Cowboys disagreed.
“I told them to play it like a tournament game,” Weaver said.
Litchfield’s Tom Brady took the mound for the final out in the top of the fourth inning, holding the Raiders to one more hit in the next three innings.
Tom Graveline scored Litchfield’s first run in the bottom of the fourth, on a walk, a Torrington error and a scoring double play.
Two more Litchfield runs came across in the fifth on hits by sophomore Aidan Donohoe (3-for-5, double, 2 runs), Guilmart, sophomore Jack Morgan (3-for-4, 2 RBI) and a Torrington error.
Banche took the mound with a 5-3 Torrington lead in the sixth.
The Cowboys struck again in the bottom of the seventh.
Donohoe, Coleby Bunnell and Morgan singled in one run. A Torrington error produced the tie.
Richardson rapped a lead-off hit to left in the top of the eighth. Vanotti beat out a sacrifice bunt for a hit. Freshman Adam Groebl sacrificed them to second and third. James Gaskins came up to pinch hit.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Gaskins said. “I expected to get the signal for a sac bunt or a squeeze. When it didn’t come, I just tried to hit it into the gap.”
His gapper was a double to left, breaking open the tie along with the Raider floodgates.
With two outs, Banche singled in two runs, an error brought on another base runner and a two-run single by Casey Navin finished the Raiders’ late success.
Unofficially ranked 33rd by lot, Torrington is likely to face defending Class L champion Wethersfield or Hand-Madison in next week’s first round.