Pictured: Justin Fraleigh gave RCP two good innings late in Monday’s loss to NCL.
By Marc Silvestrini
CROMWELL — First-place North Central Legion scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning to break open a close game and cruise to a 10-3 win over Rocky Hill/Cromwell/Portland on Monday at Fran Monnes Field.
The win, its fourth straight, enabled NCL to sweep a home-and-home, two-game series with RCP and extend its lead over the home team to two games in U19’s Division 3 of the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association.
NCL, which defeated RCP 4-2 Sunday in Windsor, is 10-1 while RCP is 8-3 and alone in second place in the division. RCP has lost two in a row.
North Central touched RCP starter Nick Polizonis for a pair of runs on two hits in the third inning to break a scoreless tie and then added another run in the fourth on a single by catcher John Heiden.
But, unfortunately for the home team, NCL’s offense was just starting to warm up as the visitors parlayed five hits, a couple of stolen bases and an RCP error into five runs in the top of the fifth to pad their lead 8-0.
RCP battled back to knock out NCL starter Griffin Alexander in the bottom of the fifth, scoring twice to close the gap to 8-2. After Ryan Robb opened the inning with a walk, Justin Fraleigh ripped a double to left-center, sending Robb to third. Robb then scored on a wild pitch before Tyler Baldwin’s sacrifice fly to center plated Fraleigh with RCP’s second run.
Fraleigh was then called on to relieve Mason Fox, who had replaced Polizonis on the mound an inning earlier. Fraleigh, the team’s regular third baseman, was making his second appearance as a pitcher this season. He went on to pitch two effective innings of two-hit, scoreless relief.
“I didn’t throw my changeup tonight, but everything else seemed to be working,” Fraleigh said. “They’ve got a pretty tough lineup, but I was feeling pretty good about all my other pitches.”
Erik Romero had two hits and two RBIs while Ben Tillotson had two hits and three runs scored to pace the North Central offense. Nick Gomes and Alexander also had two hits apiece as part of the team’s 11-hit attack.
“We’ve been concentrating on pitching and defense since this league started up, because we knew the hitters were going to have problems since every school lost its spring season this year,” NCL coach Ariel Rosario said. “Now our hitters are beginning to catch up and get their timing back. Now we have an offense that can really put some pressure on opposing pitchers.”
CTEBA is a temporary, unaffiliated American Legion-like league that is filling the void created by the legion’s decision in May to cancel its season last May in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
NCL’s team is made up of players from Bloomfield, East Windsor, Suffield, Windsor and Windsor Locks. RCP is a team composed of present and former members of the Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland and Xavier high school programs.
Fraleigh had a pair of hits for RCP while Baldwin had a hit and two RBIs. Elias DeLeon and Polizonis collected the team’s other hits.
“Something was missing tonight. We didn’t have the same energy and fight we usually have,” RCP coach Paul Francis said. “We got outplayed, outpitched and outhit tonight.”
“They (NCL) are a very good team that hits the ball really well,” he added.
However, with seven games left on the regular-season schedule, Francis feels his team is still in a good position to qualify for the league’s eight-team, single-elimination postseason tournament, though he is nowhere near ready to concede the Division 3 title.
RCP will swing back into action on Wednesday when it hosts Ellington (5:45 p.m.) at Fran Monnes Field.
NCL 002 152 0 10-11-0
RCP 000 020 1 3-5-5
Pitchers: NCL—Alexander, Eheander (5). RCP—Polizonis, Fox (5), Fraleigh (6). WP: Alexander; LP: Polizonis.