By Marc Silvestrini
CROMWELL — RCP, a team composed of present and former members of the Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland and Xavier high school programs, scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning without the benefit of a hit, to break a 1-1 tie and claim a 7-1 win over East Hartford/Manchester.
Wednesday’s win at Fran Monnes Field was the second in as many games for RCP in the 19U Division of the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association. CTEBA is a temporary, unaffiliated American Legion-like league that is filling the void created by American Legion Baseball’s decision to cancel its season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The winning rally, which featured five walks, two infield errors, two wild pitches and a passed ball, began when EHM starter Nathan Hart walked first baseman Tino Gagliardi. Zach Zajac then reached on an error and, one out later, Grant Collins reached on another walk to load the bases.
Tyler Baldwin brought in the go-ahead run when his sharp bouncer to third was misplayed, allowing Gagliardi to score. RCP starting pitcher Nick Polizonis then helped his own cause by drawing a bases-loaded walk to build RCP’s lead to 3-1.
A wild pitch allowed Collins to score from third with the third run of the inning, while a passed ball brought Baldwin home with the fourth run. A walk to Matt Sevigny then reloaded the bases and brought an end to Hart’s evening.
A wild pitch by reliever Austin Segarra enabled Polizonis to scamper home with the fifth run before Ryan Boyle lifted a long sacrifice fly to center field that plated Sevigny.
After two strong innings of work by both starting pitchers, RCP opened the scoring in the last of the third.
Zajac led off with a single and Elias Deleone followed by drawing a walk. After Zajac was thrown out at third when Collins hit into a fielder’s choice and Baldwin drew a walk to load the bases, Polizonis hit a rocket to left-center that might have cleared the bases, but was turned into a long sacrifice fly on a brilliant running catch by center fielder Darrion Williams.
East Hartford/Manchester tied it up in the top of the fourth when Williams led the inning with a single, stole second, moved to third on grounder to first by Segarra and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jamel Cortes.
Seeking to limit his pitch count, RCP coach Paul Francis replaced Polizonis in the top of the sixth and got two innings of one-hit, shutout relief from right-hander Baldwin. Polizonis, who left the game having thrown 63 pitches, notched the win by giving up one run on one hit, striking out six and walking two.
“We’ve pitched very well so far in our two games. We’ve given up only one run,” Francis said. “The hitting has been a little slow to come around, but I think you’ll see us improve at the plate as the season goes on and we knock off some of the rust.”
“I really like our lineup,” Francis added. “We’ve got a bunch of hitters who are patient at the plate, guys that work counts and don’t swing out of the zone.”
Though RCP hit several balls hard throughout the game, it only collected two hits on the evening, singles by Polizonis and Zajac. Williams had both of East Hartford-Manchester’s hits and scored the team’s lone run.
CTEBA was created under stringent safety protocols and some of those noticeable Wednesday. Coaches wore masks, players socially distanced outside of their dugouts during play, and the plate umpire called balls and strikes from behind the pitcher’s mound.
RCP is scheduled to play each of next three days, weather permitting, against the Middletown Palmer Dogs (0-1) on Thursday (6:30 p.m.) at Palmer Field, against Enfield (1-3) in Cromwell (5:45) and the Palmer Dogs again on Saturday at 11 a.m.
EHM 000 100 0 – 1 2 2
RCP 001 060 x – 7 2 1
Pitchers: EHM: Hart (4), Segarra. RCP: Polizonis (5), Baldwin.