Strong starting pitching, a lot of offense and the hometown boy made good in his FCBL debut. It's safe to say the Torrington Titans couldn't have hoped their season opener would go any better.
Alec Palioca threw six scoreless innings and Torrington native Conor Bierfeldt sparked the offense with a two-run home run and three RBI as the Titans posted an 11-6 victory over the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs on Thursday night at Fuessenich Park in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League season opener for both teams.
It was a great way for the Titans and first-year coach Misha Dworken to start the season. Just about everything clicked as Torrington jumped out to an early lead and kept piling on the runs.
"Alec came out and threw a gem," Dworken said. "He pitched great, we got going on offense, you couldn't have asked for a better opener."
Palioca (1-0) didn't give up a hit until there was one out in the fourth and was only in trouble in the second and he got out of it quickly. After getting two quick outs, Palioca walked two straight Dirt Dawgs before getting a fly ball to right to end the frame.
Palioca left after six and allowed just the one hit with five strikeouts and a pair of walks.
""I felt good out there. I was making my pitches and the defense was there to back me up," Palioca said. "We jumped on them pretty good early and got some runs on the board and that helped a lot. My fastball was moving well, getting by the hitters and my splitter was really working."
The Titans wasted no time getting their starter a quick lead as they scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back. Bierfeldt drove in the first run of the game on a ground out to short. Ryan Plourde then drove a two-run double to the left center field gap to make it 3-0.
Plourde finished with two hits and four RBI. Jordan Serena doubled and drove in two runs while Gus Craig added a double, single and RBI. Ryan Zielinski also doubled and drove in a run.
By the time all was said and done, seven Titans had at least one hit and five different Titans drove in a run.
"It was a good start, everyone hitting like that is definitely a good sign," Plourde said.
It took a couple at bats, and that's understandable given the circumstances, but Bierfeldt eventually got going and it was a start better than he could have imagined.
After maybe pressing during his first two time at the plate, Bierfeldt got a pitch he was looking for in the bottom of the fourth and crushed a shot to left field to send Wachusett starter Jeff Andersen to the showers and extend Torrington's lead to 9-0.
Having played at Fuessenich Park as a kid, it was quite the return for Bierfeldt, who came back to his hometown an All-American after a standout campaign for Western Connecticut.
"It was surreal, I ran hard to first and then heard the crowd kind of erupt and then I knew it was out," Bierfeldt said. "My first two at bats I got behind in the count and started jumping. He had thrown me a couple curve balls in my other at bats and it was in the back of my mind. Then I got one and jumped on it. You can't script that, the homer, it was a great start."
The Dirt Dawgs did all their damage offensively after Palioca was out of the game and the Titans had already built an 11-0 lead.
Ross Julian had a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning and Wachusett scored three times in the eighth inning on just one hit to go with three walks and two Titans errors.
Jeff Andersen (0-1) took the loss, yielding nine runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Michael Joseph, a hard-throwing 6-7 righthander came on and recorded the final four outs for Torrington, which travels to North Shore to play the Navigators Friday before a home game against the Pittsfield Suns on Sunday afternoon.