Litchfield evens series with Tri-Town

copyright Peter Wallace/Ron Putetti   Register-Citizen/Rep-American   08/24/2011
Bring on Game #3. The Litchfield Cowboys evened the Tri-State Baseball League’s best-of-three championship series with the Tri-Town Trojans at a game apiece Tuesday evening with a 12-7 win in a turnaround of Monday evening’s outing at Torrington’s Fuessenich Park.
If Monday was mainly decided by Tri-Town’s pitching advantage with ace Miles Scribner on the mound plus lots of gift walks from the Cowboys, Tuesday’s was decided by Litchfield going to the hitting well where they’ve lived all summer as the league’s No. 1 seed (19-4, 1-1 championship series). “We came out with a purpose,” said Adam Claire, who peppered three Tri-Town pitchers for three hits, two runs and an RBI. Claire set the trend for the Cowboys as all but one of the starting lineup contributed at least one RBI. The Litchfield Cowboys bounced back with an all-around team slugfest, banging out 16 hits en route to the win. The Cowboys have defeated teams all season long with depth throughout the lineup. They had that on display again Tuesday night as seven different Litchfield batters drove in runs and six collected at least two hits.
The Trojans didn’t get the pitcher they wanted back from college soccer practice in Vermont, then contributed five errors to the misery of less-experienced pitchers. Meanwhile, The other star of the night was Litchfield player/coach and starting pitcher Carl Rivers who made the trip from Coventry, where the distance has kept him an infrequent visitor to a team he’s lived and breathed for every summer for the past 10 years. “I’ll be sore tomorrow,” grinned Rivers (7.1 innings, 6 earned runs, 9 hits, 10 strikeouts, 4 walks), “but I’ve been blessed with an injury-free career.” The stat sheet shows that he gave up six earned runs, but anyone watching knows Rivers was overpowering. “For a guy who has barely pitched all year long, he did a great job, “Claire said. “It was such a great performance by him, even though he gave up a home run in the sixth inning. He hit his spots and was dominant.” Rivers was pleased with his overall performance. “I spotted really well for not throwing a whole lot this season,” Rivers said. “I just wanted to keep them at bay for an extended period of time. They are a very good team and are here for a reason so I wanted to make sure I came with my best stuff.”
The Cowboys jumped on Tri-Town starter Eric Opperman in the first inning, leaving the bases loaded even after establishing a 3-0 lead on two walks and hits by Claire, Chris Beach and Karl Quist (3-for-6, double, RBI, run scored). “It was very big to jump on them right away,” Claire said. “It was definitely important to grab an early lead and to give Carl (Rivers) some runs to work with.” They were back for two more runs and a new pitcher (Ethan Kobylarz) in the top of the third, on a hit batter, and hits by Kyle Weaver (2-for-5, RBI, 2 runs scored, Ed Pequignot (2-for-3, 3 runs scored, RBI) and Claire, 5-0. In the bottom of the inning, Dan McCarty (2-for-5, 2 RBI, run scored) got the first hit off Rivers, a lefty who set pitching records at Western Connecticut State University. That drove in Ryan McDonald, on base with a walk. With three more Cowboy runs in the fifth and another pair in the sixth, 8-1, the game would have been a yawner with a warmer temperature, just too long-seeming in Tuesday’s chill.
Then the Tri-Town bats took a turn. A leadoff double by Kyle Osolin and an RBI from McCarty brought another run in the bottom of the sixth. A walk and hits by McDonald and Nick Lahoud earned another in the seventh, 10-2. Still, the Litchfield lead was safe enough until Jon Smart blasted a three-run homer in the eighth after McCarty scored on an error and sacrifice fly. Steve Price and Troy Kobylarz got on with singles. Smart hit a Rivers fastball high over the left field fence. “We were sloppy,” said Litchfield player/coach Chris Beach. “I should have taken Carl out an inning earlier.”
“We never laid down,” said Tri-Town player/coach McDonald. “But, against a team like Litchfield, you’ve got to make the plays; you can’t keep giving them extra chances.” Tri-Town’s last big chance ended in the eighth, with those four runs, 12-7. Claire and Rivers both agreed that the key to Game 3 will be defense and doing the little things right. “If we cut down on errors and walks and do the small things that it takes to win, then we should be fine,” Claire said. “It’s going to come down to defense,” Rivers added. “If you look at the last two games we got a little loose defensively and they scored some runs. If we can prevent that from happening and we get some timely hits, then that may be the deciding factor. Whatever team plays the cleaner game will win.” The teams will be back with their strengths for the championship on Thursday at 7 p.m., or Friday as a rain-day, at Fuessenich Park.