The Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland American Legion baseball team split doubleheaders with Tri-County and West Hartford over the July 4 holiday weekend.
In the opener with Tri-County, RCP played flat in a 7-1 defeat. After taking a 1-0 advantage in the first frame, opposing pitcher Baylor LaPointe shut down the RCP batters. Only John McMahon showed any prowess at the plate with three hits.
While the front end of the doubleheader could be called a dull game, the back end certainly was not. RCP got its bats going and staged an exciting comeback, winning an extra-inning affair by the score of 8-6.
RCP fell behind 3-1 in the bottom of the first inning. Though they tied the game in the top of the fifth on Mike Mancuso’s double and a sacrifice fly from Rob Aresti, Tri-County quickly added two more runs to take a 6-4 lead.
RCP demonstrated resiliency as they scored three runs in the sixth, mostly on mistakes by Tri-County. The RCP offense scored a run on a bloop hit by Mancuso and seized the lead on a two-run, two-error play caused in part by the team’s smart base running.
With a runner on first, Casey Szuba overthrew first base on a routine ground ball by Kevin Post. When Tri-County overthrew third base while attempting to deny Steve Radziewicz’s sneaky advance, two runs scored and gave RCP a 7-6 lead.
Tri-County pushed the game into extra innings on a two-out single, seemingly swinging the momentum back its way.
In the eighth, Paul Francis got on base through an error and advanced two bases on a single by just barely beating the throw at third. Catcher Dave Grande’s RBI single to center would drive him in and gave RCP an 8-7 win.
“Their new pitcher struggled to find the plate and we were able to take advantage of some mistakes by them in the last few innings,” said RCP head coach Dave Hickey. “This team showed some great resiliency like they’ve done all year. It was an important win after a tough couple of losses.”
RCP lost a chance at first place and the Zone 7 title after losing the first game of Monday's doubleheader against bitter rival West Hartford. However, RCP staged an emotional comeback victory in game two for the second consecutive day.
The first matchup, a completion of a scoreless game that started on June 24, did not last long. West Hartford walked off in the bottom of the ninth against Francis after a leadoff single, sacrifice bunt and an RBI base hit, winning 1-0.
The loss dropped RCP to 9-5 in Zone 7. The loss guaranteed RCP would remain behind the Westies in the standings and would not be able to finish first in 2011. For RCP, a second straight Zone 7 title was now out of the picture.
It would not have been surprising if RCP played poorly after the first game’s disappointing conclusion. Instead, they came out fighting behind nine Herculean innings from Francis. RCP blasted open the game in extra innings to win 9-3.
In roughly 90 degree heat, Francis was sensational pitching all nine innings for RCP, even after throwing two innings in the first game. Francis mowed down the opposition early and pounded the strike zone.
Francis allowed 12 hits, but struck out 10 batters. Francis's gutsy performance kept his team in the game. The offense finally made it easy for him in the ninth.
RCP scored six runs in the top of the ninth, taking a 9-3 lead. McMahon’s two-run double started the scoring and was followed by three RBI singles and a bases loaded walk.
“I don’t know how I was able to go all those innings,” said Francis after picking up the win. “I think I just did everything with guts, and luckily it worked and we were able to finally score.”
McMahon says the team’s goals for the season have not changed in the slightest.
“We still want to make the state playoffs,” he said. “And then we want to play great there and win the state title.”