copyright Rick Wilson 8/17/21 Litchfield County Sports
You can get into a healthy debate over who should win and who will win the best-of-three Tri-State Baseball World Series between the Terryville Black Sox and Tri-Town Trojans that begins Wednesday night (7 p.m.) at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. What is not up for debate is that you have the two best two teams ready, willing and able to slug it out for supremacy.
Terryville (24-2 overall), coming off a fine third place showing in the AABC Stan Musial Northeast World Series in Weymouth, Mass. last weekend , has cruised through the Tri-State competition with a 22-0 record, perfection that included a 4-3, 10 inning walk-off win over Tri-Town. The Trojans are 18-3, a loss to Wolcott in the playoffs and a defeat at the hands of Blasius the only other losses during the season.
The Black Sox have waltzed through the playoffs while Tri-Town showed its moxie, losing its opener to Wolcott and then rallying for two straight wins.
Oh and that one meeting between the two teams. You might not want to read too much into the final result. Terryville took advantage of a two-run error early on, tied the game in the ninth inning on Gavin LaVallee’s HR and then won the game in the 10th on Billy Armstrong’s RBI single. There was nothing decisive there. Tri-Town figures it should have won while Terryville prides itself on the comeback.
“We wouldn’t want to be playing anyone else,” said Tri-Town player / coach Dan McCarty. (The championship) should be one versus two and it wouldn’t have been a good Tri-State season if it wasn’t Terryville and Tri-Town.”
“Both teams are sound defensively and can hit one through nine,” said Terryville player / coach Dave Alarcon. “Both have depth in the pitching staffs which what separates us from the rest of the league. We have staffs not just a couple of arms.”
The two teams are evenly matched but go about their business in vastly different ways. But the tangible may very well share the stage with the intangible in this series. Joe Bunnell, location and history will share major story lines here.
Bunnell died 17 months ago in a tragic accident, crushed by a piece of farm equipment. First baseman and charter member of the Trojans, Bunnell, in death, has been a driving force for the team this season.
Tri-State is often called affectionally, “Good Old Country Baseball.” But Tri-State and Ed Gadomski are as much about people as they are about baseball. After the game shares equal time with the game. Gadomski and the league knew what was lost with Joe’s death. More than a good player but a good guy.
Opening day at Community Field in Litchfield on a warm Saturday in May was about Joe. Oh, they played baseball, but it was secondary. The Bunnell family was there with a passel of friends. Joe was inducted into the Tri-State Hall of Fame, 10 balloons (Joe’s number) were released, all the family threw out ceremonial pitches. In one classy act, opposing team, Blasius Chevrolet all wore jerseys with Bunnell and his No. 10 on the back. When the Trojans ran out to the field, they left first base empty. It was a painfully great day.
“Our whole season has been dedicated to him,” said McCarty. “We have a reason to win. He caught the last out of our championship wins in 2013 and 2018. We play for him and Coleby (brother and first baseman) can follow in his footsteps. Before every game we count to 10 and say Joe’s initials. It’s not for us, it is for Joe.”
Bunnell’s powerful influence is not lost on Terryville.
“Obviously the loss of Joe is motivating them,” said Alarcon. “I will probably never root for Tri-Town, but if they happen to win this series, I will be happy for them.”
Municipal Stadium is also a factor here. Terryville has a load of big boppers and the big park on Thomaston Avenue is spacious. It will be a factor.
“Playing at Municipal is an advantage for Tri-Town,” conceded Alarcon. “The times they have beaten us over the years have almost all come at Community Field in Litchfield. There is no fence and their outfielders play us 400 feet away. Municipal does have a fence but it is a long way.”
There is also the matter of 2018. In a hotly contested series Tri-Town defeated Terryville in a deciding game three behind the pitching of Bobby Chatfield and Miles Scribner to win its second title. Terryville won the 2019 title before Covid-19 canceled the 2020 season but the 2018 loss lingers.
“We know that we are the defending champs but we call this the revenge series,” said Alarcon. “They beat us. We look at it as they took us down in 2018.”
However the intangibles manifest themselves it will be on the field and it is an intriguing matchup. Terryville has the long ball brigade and like launching balls long distance. The Black Sox treat outfield fences with disdain and hit six home runs in Game 2 of their semifinal win over Bethlehem. They finished with seven in the series.
Andrew Hinckley set a Tri-State home run record with 14 while LaVallee blasted seven, Alex Rauso five and Justin McCullouch three. Two-Time league MVP Tony Patane is a constant threat.
Tri-Town makes it way a different way. Base hits, hit and run, stealing bases. Tri-Town is slow torture compared to Terryville’s quick strike.
“It comes down to old school baseball to new school,” said McCarty. “We manufacture runs and play defense. “They have power and pitching. “
No disagreement from Alarcon.
“We are gaps, HRs and pitching. Tri-Town is curveballs and scrappy taking the ball the other way and not swinging at bad pitches,” he noted.
Both teams have a bevy of hurlers. Terryville will bring quality gas in the form of Hinckley, Cody Kerski, Mike Apple, Kyle Dube and Ken Kerski. Tri-Town answers with veterans Chatfield, Miles Scribner and Dan Livingston.
Both teams need to play mistake free. Neither will take a step back. Terryville looks to repeat while Tri-Town seeks title No. 3 and is making its eighth appearance in the finals in the last 11 years. The two best teams are ready to give it a go. Get the backside off the couch, turn off the TV and head to Municipal. This should be a good one.