Tri-Town takes series opener

Copyright Peter Wallace/Rick Wilson  Register-Citizen/Rep-American  8/23/2011
The Litchfield Cowboys didn’t play their best game, and they didn’t have Miles Scribner. Enough said.
The Tri-Town Trojans stunned the No. 1 seed Litchfield Cowboys with an 8-3 win in Game One of the Tri-State Baseball League best-of-three championship series Monday night at Torrington’s Fuessenich Park. The first and second seeds in the tournament ran first and second in the 17-team league all summer on the strength of hitting for Litchfield (18-4), pitching for Tri-Town (19-5). Monday’s game, re-started after a rain-out in the fifth inning Sunday, lived up to the stereotypes, with a twist. The Cowboys out-hit Tri-Town 8-6, but 11 walks and a costly late-inning error more than made up the difference for the Trojans. Game 2 will be held tonight at 7 at Fuessenich, and if a third game is necessary, it will be played Thursday night, same time, same place.
You can start with the rubber-armed Scribner, who scattered eight hits and struck out 10 in going the distance after pitching four innings Sunday before the game was rained out. “Sunday was just a bullpen session for him,” laughed Tri-Town coach Ryan McDonald. Scribner was more perseverance than perfection. In fact, Litchfield outhit the Trojans, 8-6, and appeared to be cruising behind Mike Odenwaelder with a 3-0 lead through five innings. Odenwaelder had six strikeouts and a one-hitter going through the first five innings. Four walks to that point didn’t hurt him.
“They were hitting my curves tonight,” said Trojan pitcher Miles Scribner (9 innings, 2 earned runs, 8 hits, 10 strikeouts, 0 walks), who, at 13-0 for the summer, is considered the best pitcher in the league by most. “I started throwing them my slider more.” Scribner’s curve is usually a “holy-cow” pitch that drops suddenly through the strike zone. Monday, it hung for a few Litchfield batters. When he went to his other pitches, he went back to threatening frustrated batters’ knees with their twists.
Kyle Weaver, Collin Dickinson (2-for-3) and Adam Claire staked Odenwaelder to his three-run led in the third. With one out, Scribner hit Weaver with a pitch, then gave up hits to Dickinson and Ed Pequignot (2 RBI). Scribner got Pequignot on a fielder’s choice from Adam Claire. Claire scored on a throwing error on the next play, 3-0.
“We settled in on Odenwaelder,” said Tri-Town player/coach Ryan McDonald. “He wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes.” Dan McCarty drew a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth, then got to third on two wild pitches. Odenwaelder proved, up to this point, he was effective without crowding the strike zone. Now he got two more strikeouts. With two outs and Dan McCarty on first base, Kyle Osolin ripped a liner toward right field that Beach appeared to have speared with his dive only to have the ball pop out when he hit the ground. Then Troy Kobylarz hit a long double to center field, scoring Osolin, 3-2. Next inning, the walks buried Odenwaelder. Joe Bunnell, Casey McDonald and McCarty loaded the bases on three walks surrounding a strikeout. Odenwaelder was done, but reliever Ben Murphy walked in one run, then Gardella traced the third base line with a two-run screamer, putting the Trojans up 5-3. When we have runners on base, “we usually get them in,” said Tri-Town’s Kyle Osolin (2-for-4, double, run scored), who drove in three runs himself.
Scribner’s slider did the job on one side. A walk and the costly error in the top of the ninth finished it for the Trojans on the other. In Tri-Town’s final at-bat, Litchfield third baseman Kyle Weaver made a great bare-handed play on a slow grounder to get the second out after a comebacker to Murphy for the first. But, with two outs, McCarty waited for his third straight walk, then Steve Price singled to right. A fly to right should have ended the inning, but turned into every outfielder’s nightmare. The ball popped out of the fielder’s glove, scoring McCarty, leaving Gardella on second and Price on third while setting up another golden moment for Osolin. He lined a two-run double to deep center field for Tri-Town’s final icing. Scribner supplied the rest.
Back to Scribner. Not that long ago he threw back-to-back victories on a Wednesday and Friday in the tournament before taking off on vacation to the Outer Banks. His eyes lit up when the suggestion of him pitching Game 2 was thrown out. “I only threw about 50 pitches Sunday,” he grinned. Scribner knew on this night he had to make adjustments. “They were jumping on the first-pitch fastball and hitting the curve ball good,” Scribner said. “I started mixing in my slider. ” Don’t be surprised to see Scribner late in Game 2 if the game is tight, said McDonald.
Game Two begins at 7 p.m. tonight. Kevin Murray, who went four and two thirds innings for Litchfield before Sunday’s rain might be a likely bet for the Cowboys’ starter. Connor Murray,
who’s at Southern Vermont College practicing for fall soccer, hopes to get back for the start for Tri-Town. Outside chances could even bring Chris Blazek back from a tweaked hamstring for Litchfield, or Scribner for a few more innings for Tri-Town. “He keeps telling me, ‘I’ve got all year to recuperate,’” laughed Trojan Coach McDonald. For both teams, tomorrow and, possibly Thursday, represent the final all-or-nothing of a great baseball season.