Torrington wins thriller in Class L opener, 2-1 over Bethel. John Nestor has the story.
TORRINGTON - A gutty start by Shane Bierfeldt, some clutch defense and a break or two added up to a tense 2-1 10-inning victory for the Torrington High baseball team over Bethel on Monday afternoon in a Class L state tournament first-round matchup.
The sixth-seeded Red Raiders advance to a second-round matchup with No. 11 Maloney of Meriden on Tuesday after surviving the No. 27 Wildcats out of the Southwest Conference.
Torrington (17-6) scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th but not before throwing out two Bethel runners at the plate and another at third.
The final inning did not start out particularly well for Torrington as John McCarthy was robbed of at least a double by Bethel left fielder Jake Roper, who made a stellar diving grab near the line.
Dominic Sabia followed and lifted a high fly ball to deep right and Garrett Whelton-Pane was unable to track it down, stumbling just as he tried to catch it, putting Sabia at second.
Bethel starter Matt Liquori, who went the distance and was valiant in defeat, walked Matt Baril, bringing up Bierfeldt, who hit a ground ball to short. Bethel tried to turn an inning ending double play and forced Baril at second, but the throw to first was low and wide, allowing Sabia to score the winning run.
“When you get to the state tournament it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the regular season and these games always seem to tighten up,” Torrington coach Pat Richardson said. “Everybody has a good pitcher and things get tight. I told the team, the team that executed and plays fundamental baseball will be the team that wins and we were able to do that at the end today.”
While the Red Raiders got some help from to score the winning run, they had to come up with some clutch defense to keep the Wildcats from taking the lead in the top of the 10th.
Bethel’s Zack Hottes led off the 10th with a single and David Kear came on to pinch run. Kear advanced to second on a wild pitch and Roper followed with a single to left. Kear rounded third and it appeared Bethel coach Ray Turek was waving him home, but when Turek had Kear stop and head back to third, Kear lost a shoe and was thrown out trying to dive back into third base by Stanley Rijo with Sabia applying the tag.
The Wildcats threatened again in the inning as Nicholas Luhrs reached on a fielder’s choice and was followed by Cadyn Clark who singled to left center. Luhrs tried to score from second and was thrown out at the plate by Rijo, who cut the throw from outfielder Manny Rijo and fired a strike to the plate.
“The defense was something that got a lot better for us after the start of the season and when we went on our winning streak,” Richardson said. “It was something we did a lot of work on and it paid off today.”
Bierfeldt went 8 2/3 innings before leaving the game with the bases loaded in the ninth. Josh Rubino came on in relief and got a fielder’s choice ground out to end the inning and he eventually picked up the win.
“Shane was great for us today, he didn’t want to come out but he had given us all he could,” Richardson said. “Josh came in and did the job and kept us in the game.”
Bethel took a 1-0 lead in the second when Joe Liquori came home on an RBI ground out by Matt Liquori. Torrington tied the game in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by McCarthy.
The Wildcats had runners at first and third with no outs in the fourth but failed to score and had another runner thrown out at the plate, this time on a very close call.
Luhrs led off with a single and went to third on a single by Clark. With Simonelli at the plate, Luhrs took off for home when a Bierfeldt pitch in the dirt got away from Torrington catcher Ben Thompson and rolled toward the third base dugout a few feet from the plate.
Thompson flipped the ball to Bierfeldt who was covering and he swiped a tag that the plate umpire ruled got Luhrs before he touched the plate.