Copyright Kevin Roberts Register-Citizen 7/5/2012
A day of Fourth of July baseball fun had a dramatic ending during the All-Star Game between the Torrington Titans and Tri-State Baseball League in front of an announced crowd of 617 on Wednesday night at Fuessenich Park. Torrington Titan Conor Bierfeldt, a Torrington native, launched a 2-1 fastball from Litchfield Cowboy pitcher Chris Blazek over the left field wall to tie the game at 2. That’s where the game ended. The Titans leave on a bus at 7 a.m. today for a doubleheader at Martha’s Vineyard against the Sharks. The first game starts at 3 p.m. “That was pretty awesome,” Bierfeldt said of his home run. “I was just hoping for a fastball.” “It was great that the Torrington guy hit it,” Tri-State Commissioner Eddie Gadomski said. Gadomski served as his team’s head coach.
Tri-State had plenty of arms on display on Wednesday night. It started with Litchfield Cowboy left-hander Carl Rivers, who came back to play in the game. Rivers threw two innings of one-run ball, then handed it over to Tri-Town Trojan Miles Scribner, who fired a 1-2-3 third inning. In the fourth, Tri-State brought in Winsted Whaler Adam Piechowski, who blew through two innings of work. Piechowski gave up just one hit and got five of his six outs on strikeouts. “There were no shortage of arms, that’s for sure,” Gadomski said. After Piechowski, Tri-State brought in lefty Ken Kerski of the Waterbury Wild, who worked around a walk to fire a scoreless sixth inning. Kerski struck out Bierfeldt on a wicked curveball for the second out of the inning. “He was phenomenal,” Bierfeldt said. “It was one of the worst-looking at bats that I have ever had.”
For the seventh and eighth innings, Tri-State called on Litchfield Cowboy left-hander Joey Serafin, who was recently let go by the Chicago White Sox after reaching ‘AA’. Serafin struck out three in two scoreless innings or work, including a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play in the seventh inning. Serafin struck out Brian Fracasso, then Bethlehem Plowboy catcher Tony Geraci (single, 2 walks, RBI, run scored) threw out Aldo Ferrante at second base. In the ninth, Tri-State brought in Blazek, who pitched in the minor leagues in the Houston Astros organization. Bierfeldt saw three fastballs, then hit the fourth one for the game-tying home run.
The Titans also put some good arms on display, not the least of which was pitching coach Bobby Chatfield, who is a year removed from playing for the Titans. Chatfield, a former Housatonic High School pitcher who recently graduated from Plymouth State University, threw four scoreless innings and gave up just two hits. He struck out six and walked four. “Just throwing away, throwing curveballs, changeups,” Chatfield said of his night. “The normal stuff that I do.”
Titan general manager Sander Stotland looked at it from a future perspective. “It gives [Chatfield] some credibility being the pitching coach, that he’s still got it,” Stotland said. “These young kids are very impressionable.” Chatfield followed new Titan Gregg Kirkpatrick of Lebanon, Conn., who gave up two runs in the first inning, then settled down over his next two frames. In the eighth inning, the Titans brought in another new pitcher, 5-foot-3 right-hander Rhett Jones, a Georgia junior college pitcher who can throw in the mid to upper 80s. Jones threw a 1-2-3 inning, and fired a hard knuckleball for a strike to Brass City Brew slugger Justin McCulloch. “It came right at me,” said McCulloch, who was impressed by the pitch. “Came right in.” In the ninth, it was time for Jones’ college roommate Tyler Balshor to show his stuff. Balshor, who has been clocked at 94, got a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout. “They’re young, and they’re excited to be here,” Stotland said of his new pitchers. “They just want to play summer ball, and that’s what we’re all about.”
Tri-State got its first run on Geraci’s RBI single in the first, then tacked on another run in the inning when Geraci scored on a wild pitch. The Titans got their first run in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single by Brian Fracasso. The second came on Bierfeldt’s blast. “It was nice to see Conor hit a home run to kind of cap the night off,” Chatfield said. “The arms definitely were impressive today,” Gadomski said. “I don’t think anyone went home disappointed, even with a 2-2 tie.” Stotland was disappointed in the size of the crowd. Stotland said he wished there was better attendance at the game, and pointed out that nights at Fuessenich Park are about entertainment, not just baseball. “I think that the people that were here had a good time,” Stotland said.
The day kicked off with a public Home Run Derby with metal bats, which ended up being a swing-off between Winsted’s Justin Morhardt and Tri-State Hall of Famer Rich Scott. Morhardt recently graduated from The Gilbert School and was drafted in the 39th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his dad Greg is a scout. Scott won MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 in Tri-State. Morhardt ended up winning the swing-off.
In the Main Home Run Derby, also with metal bats, both the Titans and Tri-State were a little slow to start off, but the home runs really started to fly in the second round. Brass City’s Paul Novakowski and Bethlehem’s Jon Conlin each took aim at the factory across the river from the ballpark. One of Conlin’s homers hit the base of the factory. In the end, Novakowski banged out seven home runs in the final round to win the Derby. Several were moon-shots into the Naugatuck River. “Steve Carosella [Novakowski’s teammate] was putting it right in there, and it’s easy when every pitch is right there,” Novakowski said.
Novakowski was impressed with the swings of Morhardt, who plays American Legion baseball with Winsted. “He’s got great balance,” Novakowski said. “He’s balanced, and everything flies.” Morhardt had fun in the Derby. Several of Morhardt’s homers took aim at either the houses beyond the right field wall, or Park Avenue, which is also behind the fence. “It’s always a blast hitting in front of people,” Morhardt said. Morhardt gave credit to Novakowski.“Once he got in the groove, he got going,” Morhardt said.
Before the game, a small helicopter flew to Fuessenich Park, then hovered above the pitcher’s mound. Two baseballs were dropped out of the helicopter, and former Negro League baseball player Gilbert Black presented them to Sgt. Jonathon Conlin and Cpl. Jeff Fonti, both Marines. Conlin and Fonti threw out ceremonial first pitches, then after God Bless America and the National Anthem were sung, the game got underway. Live music was provided during the home run derbies by The Owl Creek Band of Torrington.
Copyright Tim Gaffney Republican-Amercian 7/5/2012
What’s better than spending the Fourth of July at a baseball game?
On the day when we celebrated our country’s independence, the Tri-State League All-Stars and the Torrington Titans put on a spectacular show at Fuessenich Park, filled with a few long balls, a salute to two of our bravest, and a unique way to get the first-pitch baseballs to the mound. Wednesday was a homecoming of the greatest kind for two returning veterans who play in the Tri-State League, Marine Sgt. Jonathan Conlon and Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Fonti. To see these two back on the diamond after spending the better part of the last four years deployed in two war-torn lands was as good for them as it was for their teammates who celebrated with them.
“We have a brotherhood over there in the Marines and another right here with our teammates,” Fonti said. It’s the first time back in the Tri-State League for both this summer, and neither intends on missing a minute of action. “I couldn’t wait to get back home to play baseball again,” Conlon said. “You appreciate what we have here after seeing just how different everything is over there.” Conlon plays with the Bethlehem Plowboys while Fonti has been a longtime member of the Brass City Brew. The best thing about talking to these guys? Being able to personally thank them for their service. We all should do so when the opportunity presents itself. Seems like we got it right when these soldiers came back from war, something for which each was very appreciative. “The way we were welcomed back with open arms was terrific,” Fonti said. Well done, America.
The day began with a twist on this second annual event: a public home run derby in which ordinary joes like me could sign up to participate. So I did. It will certainly go down in lore at some point that the ball I hit during my 10 swings has yet to come down … Truth be told, I was thrilled to reach the warning track in left field. But you know what? It feels great when you get a hold of a pitch. I can understand now why players like to watch the long ball. There were no thoughts in my mind that I would hit one out Wednesday. I had set the bar real low; a pop to the outfield would be a major victory. Aside from some swings during batting practice Sunday with the Titans, I had not hit a pitched ball since high school. (Batting cages with dead balls don’t really count.)
The winner of the public derby was Winsted’s Justin Morhardt, who disturbed the occupants of the house beyond the right field fence on more than a few occasions. His last blast, which won him a spot in the home run derby between the Tri-State All-Stars and the Titans, rattled around the third-floor porch like a lit firecracker with nowhere to go. The kid can simply rake from the left side. Paul Novakowski, brother of former Twister Gary, won the regular derby with seven majestic shots that littered the Naugatuck River.
Before the start of the exhibition game between the Titans and Tri-State All-Stars, a helicopter made its way around the park and almost landed in right field before making a nice turn toward the mound, where they delivered two baseballs for the ceremonial first pitches, which were thrown out by Conlin and Fonti. Two perfect strikes. They’re Marines, after all. Gilbert Black, a former professional baseball player from the Negro Leagues in the 1950s, was on hand to present the ball to the Marines. All in all, a great day to be at Fuessenich. And please be on the lookout for the ball I hit. I’d like it back.
NOTE: Picture’s can be found in the LEAGUE PHOTO’S folder!!!
Torrington Titans vs Tri-State 2012
Copyright Kevin Roberts Register-Citizen 7/5/2012