Litchfield Cowboys stay cool; force deciding game

Wednesday August 22:                            Game #3                       7:00pm    Fuessenich Park
Litchfield Cowboys 6  Waterbury Wild  4      (Game #2)
Copyright Peter Wallace    Register-Citizen   8/20/2012
The Litchfield Cowboys evened the Tri-State Baseball League best-of-three championship series Sunday evening at Fuessenich Park in a 6-4 win over the Waterbury Wild that’s best described as a pitching duel with scoring bulges.
The pure duel came first. Litchfield’s Kevin Murray combined with Quinn McKenna to even up the North Division series with Bethlehem after an opening loss. Now he had the same task following Waterbury’s 11-1 win in the first game of the season’s final series. “I was a little nervous, but I’ve been in this situation so many times, it’s almost second nature,” Murray smiled. “I was locating my fastball and my curve was really working early.” Waterbury’s Jim Dimon is one of the Wild’s bona fide aces. An Eastern Connecticut State University graduate, he has a fastball that’s been clocked at 90. In the first five innings, Dimon (7 innings, 4 earned runs, 4 hits, 12 strikeouts, 5 walks) allowed a base runner on a first-inning error; gave up a second-inning hit to Chris Blazek; and a fourth-inning lead-off double by Mike Odenwaelder (2-for-5, RBI, run scored) to the left center field fence. That was it — two hits and three base runners, along with nine strikeouts in those first five innings.
Murray (7.1 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts, 6 walks, 2 hit batters) pitched just as well, but endured more stress. Two walks produced runners on first and second in the first inning, one out. Murray emerged with a pop-up to second and a called strike three on a wicked curve. Leadoff singles by Nick Boucher (2-for-4, run scored) and Jordan Montgomery had Waterbury runners on first and third, no outs, in the bottom of the third. Litchfield catcher Karl Quist threw out Montgomery trying to steal; Murray struck out the next batter; the third out grounded to short. A lead-off error caused the Litchfield grief in the fifth inning. Waterbury’s Julian Cruz stole second. Then Murray caught a pop-up for the first out; a line drive for the second; walked the next batter; and grounded the final batter out to second. If Murray walked a tightrope for the first five innings, stress shifted dramatically to Dimon in the top of the sixth.
Litchfield’s Ed Pequignot (2 runs scored) led off with a single up the middle. Adam Claire (2 runs scored) walked. Dimon got two outs on a strikeout and a pop fly to right. Then Quist loaded the bases with a line drive down the third base line. Colin Dickinson walked in one run; Blazek walked in another. With two outs, Blazek was on the move from first when Dylan Stiles hit a slow grounder to short. Blazek beat the throw to second. Quist scored on the failed fielder’s choice, 3-0. Litchfield added another run in the top of the seventh on a walk to Claire, a Waterbury throwing error and a sacrifice fly by Chris Beach.
By then, Murray’s fastball still worked, but his curve grew too good. “It was moving so much, it was out of control,” Murray said. He pitched out of two walks in the bottom of the seventh, then hit Jack Dibiase in the eighth with a pitch, one out. Eric Hungerford came on in relief, walking one batter, then getting out of it on a double play to second on the next. Another scoring bulge was coming in the ninth. Waterbury’s Kody Kerski had a perfect eighth inning in relief of Dimon. Joe Potemsky started the ninth. He walked Pequignot, then gave up hits to Odenwaelder, Beach and Quist for two more runs, 6-0.
For a pitching duel, the bottom of the inning was much worse. Fraz Kadar, Boucher and Montgomery loaded the bases, one out, on two hits and a walk. Blazek took over Litchfield’s pitching mound. He got the first batter he faced on a pop-up to first. Then an error, a walk and a hit batter cut the Cowboy lead in half, 6-3, with the bases still loaded, two outs. “That’s baseball,” Blazek grinned. “They weren’t hitting the ball hard.” “I always felt he was going to get us out of there,” said player/coach Stiles. John DiGiovanni hit a curling single off Blazek for another run. The next batter ran up a one-two count, then fouled off several pitches. And finally swung and missed.
The championship game is Wednesday evening, 7 p.m., at Fuessenich Park.
 Waterbury Wild 11    Litchfield Cowboys 1     (Game #1)
Copyright Peter Wallace   Register-Citizen   8/19/2012
Tri-State Baseball League South Division Champion Waterbury Wild knew they had an advantage over the North Division Champion Litchfield Cowboys, thanks to an extra two days rest for their pitchers coming into Saturday’s Game One of the league’s best-of-three title series. Nevertheless, the final 11-1 Waterbury win at Fuessenich Park was beyond anyone’s expectations.
“It was better than we planned,” grinned Waterbury coach Larry DeVito. The Wild swept the Brass City Brew in two games for the South Division title, with one ace, Jim Dimon, claiming the win and 13 strikeouts Tuesday. The Cowboys battled the Bethlehem Plowboys into a third North Division title game Thursday. One ace, Kevin Murray, pitched for the Cowboys Tuesday. Joey Serafin went Thursday. Saturday, Waterbury’s other ace, lefthander Ken Kerski, rode into Fuessenich Park on six days rest. Kerski — 7 innings, 1 earned run, 4 hits, 14 strikeouts, 2 walks — started out sharp, then improved. “After the second inning, Kenny came to me and said, ‘I don’t have a feel for my curve,’” said DeVito. “He got it going in the third. When he has all three pitches — fastball, change and curve — he’s hard to deal with.” “I felt good,” said Kerski, a three-year starter for Central Connecticut. “I located my fastball, inside and out, then mixed in my offspeed when I needed it.” In fact, Litchfield starter Quinn McKenna had the better first inning, with a comebacker, fly-out and strikeout, while Kerski gave up a hit to Adam Claire.
Call the second inning even. Waterbury got back-to-back doubles from Christian Cuevas (2-for-5, RBI, 3 runs scored) and Fraz Kadar (3-for-5, 2 doubles, 4 RBI) for a Waterbury run in the top of the inning. Chris Beach led off with a walk for Litchfield in the bottom half. A walk by Chris Blazek and singles by Karl Quist and Dylan Stiles (RBI) put Beach across, 1-1. In the third inning, Waterbury batters found their stroke in the first half; Kerski found his curve in the second. The combination rocked the score up to 6-1, Waterbury, after three, with little more than a longing for Sunday’s Game Two left in the game. “It was tough today,” said player/coach Dylan Stiles. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to make and we didn’t hit. Kerski threw strikes all day.” And Waterbury hitters hit.
After Jordan Montgomery drew a leadoff walk in the top of the third, Kerski (2-for-5, RBI, 2 runs scored) started the Wild’s first batting salvo with a one-out double. McKenna got another strikeout. Then Jack Dibiase (2-for-4, 3 RBI, run scored); John DiGiovanni (2 runs scored); Cuevas and Kadar followed with two hits a walk and Kadar’s second double of the game. “I’ve been seeing the ball well since last game (two more RBI doubles against Brass City),” grinned Kadar, who played at Crosby and Post in his school days. “I just carried it through.” “When we get runners on base, my role is getting them in early,” said Dibiase, from his cleanup spot in Waterbury’s order. “With Ken on the mound, once we get him a few runs, we’re good.”
The Wild gave Kerski two more runs in the top of the fourth on two walks and hits by Dibiase and DiGiovanni off Litchfield reliever Kyle Hawes. Hawes (5.1 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 5 strikeouts, 5 walks, one hit batter) settled in for three good innings after that. In fact, with an 8-1 Waterbury lead and a well-rested Kerski on the mound, it was really just a matter of getting to the end of nine innings. “Kenny was dealing,” said DeVito, letting his pitcher go seven innings with 14 strikeouts. Kerski’s younger brother, Kody, a junior at Sacred Heart University, throws just as hard from the right side; he handled the Wild’s eighth inning. Joe Potemsky took care of the ninth. The Wild’s batters got to Hawes for one more run in the top of the eighth, on a walk, an error and hits by Kody Kerski (2-for-2) and Ken Kerski. Two Litchfield errors and hits by Kadar and Kody Kerski tacked on two more runs against Litchfield’s Kyle Robinson in the ninth.
Litchfield lost its first game against Bethlehem last week. Then Kevin Murray and McKenna came back to pitch a five-hit win in the second game. The Cowboys hope for similar results tonight in Game Two, 6 p.m. at Fuessenich Park. “We’ll be ready,” said Litchfield’s Stiles.
Copyright Peter Wallace   Register-Citizen  8/18/2012
The Waterbury Wild swept the Brass City Brew in two games early this week for the Tri-State Baseball League’s South Division Title. Litchfield’s Cowboys beat the Bethlehem Cowboys Thursday in a tight third game in the best-of-three series for the North Division title. That final North Division game, 2-1, featured three former MLB-affiliated pitchers — Litchfield lefties Joey Serafin and Chris Blazek and Bethlehem righthander Jesse Darcy — and the all-time Southern Connecticut State University saves leader, Bethlehem’s Mike Johnston. Today’s first game in the best-of-three championship series, noon at Torrington’s Fuessenich Park, promises the same kind of quality baseball.
“I’ve been coaching in the league for three years,” said Waterbury coach Larry DeVito, on hand for much of Thursday’s pitching display at Bethlehem. “The talent level at the top is incredible. Everybody has two aces. (Litchfield’s Serafin) threw wherever he wanted to, whenever he wanted to.” Serafin and Blazek certainly qualify as aces for the Cowboys. So does Kevin Murray, Litchfield’s No. 1 last year before Serafin’s arrival this summer. Behind them, young arms Quinn McKenna, Eric Hungerford and Kyle Hawes had golden moments on the mound this season for the 20-5 Cowboys. The Wild, 17-7, holds its own. Lefthander Ken Kerski was a Central Connecticut State University ace three years ago. Jim Dimon, a former pitcher for Eastern Connecticut State University, threw a no-hitter against Watertown early this month. Kody Kerski is a three-year starter at Sacred Heart University. All-State Wolcott High School shortstop Manny Cruz is also a young arm with good innings behind the aces. Waterbury’s pitchers were done Tuesday, with a 13-strikeout win for Dimon. “Our lineup is all rested,” said DeVito, who counts six days for Ken Kerski. Murray and McKenna pitched Tuesday; Serafin and Blazek, Thursday. “We have pitchers ready to go,” said Litchfield player/coach Dylan Stiles, admitting Waterbury’s rest advantage. “We just have to go out and play our game.”
Despite the focus on stellar pitching, each lineup features dangerous hitters up and down the order. Veteran Cowboy Kyle Weaver (17 years) had a game-winning double in Thursday’s North Division title game, from the No. 9 spot in Litchfield’s order. Fraz Kadar, who sometimes bats seventh, had two RBI doubles in the Wild’s deciding 6-2 South Division win over Brass City. DeVito points to his three and four hitters, Brad DeVito and Jack Dibiase, as keys higher up in the order. Litchfield counters with speedy young players like Ed Pequignot, Adam Claire, Colin Dickinson, Drew Gauvain and Mike Odenwaelder, along with veteran power-hitters like Chris Beach, Stiles and Ben Murphy.
Both teams are proud of young catchers. “Christian Cuevas really changes the game for us,” said DeVito. “People can’t really steal with him behind the plate.” Litchfield’s Beach echoes DeVito in his comments about Cowboy catcher Karl Quist. “I think he’s the best catcher in the league defensively,” said Beach. “He throws out 90 percent of the people who try to steal. People don’t run against us.” “With this kind of pitching, you’re not going to have a lot of runs scored,” said DeVito. “So you have to play great defense.” Head-to-head, the teams met just once this summer, in the second game of the season. The Cowboys won 7-3. “Joey Serafin pitched well,” Stiles recalls. “Ken Kerski started for them. It was one of those days when we put together some hits.” That seems like long ago for both teams. “We’re looking forward to more pitching battles like we had in the last series,” said Stiles. “We’re excited to be in it,” said DeVito. “I think it will be a great series.”