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TITANS BIG FOUR GETTING IT DONE ON THE HILL.

POSTED July 17, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


The Torrington Titans have gotten stellar starting pitching to date. Statrting left to right: Tyler Erickson (3-2), Connor McMahon (2-1), Gavin McCullough (6-0) and Kevin Bartlett (3-2).

TORRINGTON: As the 2011 summer sprints towards the finish line, manager Gregg Hunt has been able to throw any number of starters to the mound during the teams recent surge to the top of the league standings.

After a 7-2 loss to the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks on June 28, the Titans record stood at 5-5.

Since that date, Torrington has posted a 13-3 record while separating themselves from the third place Sharks (13-13) and the last place Seacoast Mavericks (6-24).

The Nashua Silver Knights (18-10) will face Torrington (18-8) five times over the next week including double-headers today (Sunday) in Nashua and next Sunday at Fuessenich Park.

Today’s first game will be taken up in the third inning, where it was suspended earlier this summer before a full nine inning game will follow.

The Silver Knights have long been thought of as the team to beat in the FCBL and have stayed with the Titans throughout the first month and a half of the campaign.

Hunt has been led by a deep, strong pitching staff anchored by four arms who have combined for 13 of the teams 18 wins.

Any talk of pitching prowess on this team has to start with Fairfield University junior, Gavin McCullough, who has posted a dominant 6-0 record with a tiny 1.16 ERA.

Thing is, McCullough almost didn’t end up in Torrington.

“When I talked to the Fairfield coach,” Hunt said, “We were talking about Nick Capaldo (Thomaston High star) and he told me that he might send Nick to play for the Sharks in our league and we could have McCullough or that we could have both. I didn’t have to thing long about that one.”

While Capaldo has left the team due a injury he had tried to work through, McCullough has flourished in the role of ace of the team.

In 38.2 innings, he has allowed just five earned runs while striking out 29. His ability to work out of trouble has been key; take Friday night against the Mavericks when he walked two of the first three hitters but dug deep to get the next two on strikes.

McCullough pitched to a 1-3 record with a 5.75 ERA for the Stags this spring but has found his groove this summer in the FCBL.

While McCullough has walked his share of batters this summer (15), Tyler Erickson has done nothing but pound the strike zone.

The junior from Castleton State College has walked just four in a team leading 39 innings pitched and has a 3-2 record with a 2.08 ERA.

“Every team needs a pitcher like Tyler Erickson,” Hunt said, “He can do everything. Start, close, middle relief, you name it, he just does his job.”

Take Saturday night against the Silver Knights (a 3-2 Titans win).

Erickson threw eight innings, allowing two runs (one earned) walked none and struck out six.

“He pitches to contact,” Hunt said, “The other team puts the ball in play but it’s usually not hit hard and his defense has made the plays.”

His record would be 4-1 if not for a tough loss to the Silver Knights on July 3 when a throwing error allowed the tying and winning runs to score on a play that should have ended the game.

“We also thought he had the batter struck out on the pitch before but those things happen,” Hunt said, “He has been terrific.”

6’5” lefty, Kevin Bartlett (sophomore, University of Albany) gives the Titans a strong Division I arm who has shown the ability to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.

“We knew he was a Division I talent when we signed him,” Hunt said, “He battles and gives it all he’s got.”

Bartlett has a 3-2 record with 29.2 innings pitched and if any theme keeps coming up, it’s that the Titans starters have gone deep into games more often than not.

That’s key when the double-headers start to stack up as they do every summer from the June rains. Hunt has not had to dig into his bullpen deeply on many occasions this season and that may pay off down the stretch.

In his last start, Bartlett won the first game of a twin-bill (two, seven inning games) against the Sharks with a 6.1 inning stint that he wanted to finish but came out after allowing an infield hit.

“I wanted our closer, Jerin Spikes to start the seventh but he couldn’t get loose in the bullpen,” Hunt said, “Kevin went back out and got the first out but then gave up the hit. What I like was that he didn’t want to come out, he wanted to finish what he started.”

The second left hander in the starting rotation who made history earlier this season with the leagues first no-hitter, Connor McMahon, has pitched to a 2-1 record with a 4.07 ERA.

His near perfection came on June 30 when he did not allow a hit during his teams 1-0 win at Seacoast.

An error prevented the perfect game but McMahon faced just the minimum of 27 batters after picking off the runner who had reached.

Best thing about the no-no was that McMahon, nor his teammates realized it was a no-hitter.

“We thought the ball that the runner reached on was a hit,” McMahon said, “It was hit real hard and was a tough play. So I didn’t know it was a no-hitter until I was in the line shaking hands with the Mavericks that somebody told me I had it.”

Talk about a great way to keep the pressure off.

The freshman from Merrimack College had a solid spring for his school and has been a key component for a pitching staff that has been as consistent as any in the FCBL.

With 18 games left to play (including Sunday), the Titans hope too ride their strong arms and timely bats to a playoff appearance.

Remember, only the top two teams will face off in a best of three series the first week of August trying to win the first ever FCBL championship.

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