Litchfield Passes First Test

Copyright Peter Wallace  Register-Citizen  8/9/2011
The Litchfield Cowboys combined fearsome hitting with lights-out pitching and sound defense to look like the No. 1 Tri-State playoff seed they are, in an 11-3 blitz of No. 8 Terryville Monday evening at Litchfield High School.
“They smacked the heck out of the ball all day long. Even the ones we could get to were hit hard,” said Terryville player/coach Jim Mischke, whose team came from behind Saturday to beat defending league champion Bethlehem in the first round of the double elimination playoffs. “We didn’t come to play today,” Mischke said as the team made three errors in the first four innings (four in all) and eked out just four hits against Cowboy pitchers Kyle Robinson (5 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) and Kevin Murray (4 innings, 0 earned runs, 1 hit, 6 strikeouts, 0 walks).
Still, on a day when balls rocketed off the wooden bats for both sides (a two-run homer for Terryville’s Andrew Tremble and a pinch-hit ninth-inning double for Dave Baldyga) when they connected, it was much more about what people did than what they didn’t do. The Tri-State League’s No. 7 playoff seed, Naugatuck, won the statewide Stan Musial Tournament last week while No. 1 Litchfield (16-3) got knocked out and re-motivated. “We knew we needed to win this first game,” said veteran third baseman Kyle Weaver. “Do what it takes to get on base, then hit them in.”
So, while Litchfield starter Robinson and his defense held the Black Sox (10-10) to just two hits for the first four innings Monday (Mischke and a double by Dan Vaccaro), the Cowboys — especially Weaver — practiced what they preached. “It’s nice getting a lot of young guys,” said veteran player/coach Chris Beach. “We saw talent at the beginning and the older guys kept pushing. We thought this might be the year.” Against Terryville, young guys took care of the first inning. Leadoff batter Ed Pequignot (2-for-5, double, triple, RBI, 2 runs scored) reached on an error. Adam Claire (2-for-2, double, RBI, 2 runs scored) followed with a double. Mike Odenwaelder (2-for-4, 2 runs scored) trailed with a two-run triple deep into center field, 2-0.
Terryville starter Joe Deming got through the bottom of the order with the help of a double play, despite a hit batter and an infield error. Then the buzz saw struck in the third. Claire and Karl Quist led off with walks. Catcher Mischke threw Claire out stealing second, but Beach (3-for-5, double, RBI, 2 runs scored) moved Quist over to second with a single. Odenwaelder smashed another error at the infield, scoring Quist. Ben Murphy walked to load the bases, one out. It was time to put up or shut up for Weaver, the Litchfield High School Athletic Director and baseball coach. Weaver (4 RBI) put up a line drive missile to the left field bank. All three runners scored; he landed on second base with a double, 6-0.
The Black Sox sliced the lead in half in the top of the fifth. Pat Mulcahy reached on Litchfield’s only error (unfolding as a great play right until the end). With two outs, Pat Norton walked. Then Tremble blasted his shot into the right field woods on a 3-0 count. Still leading 6-3, Robinson was ejected for vehemently protesting an umpire call in the bottom of the fifth. But not before Beach, Odenwaelder and Murphy (RBI) singled and Weaver drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to center. This game, everything worked for Litchfield’s; Cowboy ace Kevin Murray arrived late from work just before Robinson ended his own night. If the Black Sox were catching up to Robinson’s rhythm, they had no shot at Murray’s until Baldyga’s lead-off blast in the ninth.
The game was long gone by then. Leading 8-3, Pequignot and Claire jumped on Terryville reliever Billy Armstrong with a one-out triple and RBI single in the bottom of the sixth; Beach drilled Claire home with a monster double to the center field bank. Kyle Hawes scored one more Cowboy run in the eighth inning. In a game in which the Cowboys left just five runners behind, lead-off batter Hawes got hit with Armstrong’s first pitch. Pequignot doubled him home. “Our leadership gets us young guys ready,” said Murray. Keep up with the leaders if you can.