BERLIN - As the Berlin baseball team hosted Bristol Eastern at Zipadelli Field on Tuesday afternoon, head coaches Leo Veleas and Mike Giovinazzo had seen plenty during their combined 75 years of coaching experience with their respective teams.
After the Redcoats’ 6-3 win over the Lancers, the two longtime coaches shook hands and bantered at home plate before going their separate ways, representing the different directions each coach’s group is heading.
Berlin (13-1) plated three runs in the bottom of the fifth to claim its ninth win in a row, while sending Eastern (5-9) to its ninth straight loss after a 5-0 start.
The Lancers trailed by just one in the fifth inning before stranding runners at the corners, setting the Redcoats up for their breakout inning.
“We didn’t hit in the clutch again,” Giovinazzo said. “We had guys on and didn’t get it done. We couldn’t drop a bunt down in a one-run game. It’s little things like that.”
Starving for runs of late, having scored no more than three runs in each of its past seven games, Eastern got what it needed in the top of the first, pushing across the game’s first run behind a single and two wild pitches by Berlin starter Mark Addamo. Andrew Lozier looped a one-out single into left field and later scored when Addamo threw a high and outside fastball that glanced off the glove of catcher Ryan Hyde and rolled to the backstop to allow Lozier to complete the unorthodox trip around the bases.
Berlin wasted no time answering back in the bottom of the first, opening the frame with a single to right by Gianni Fanelli and an RBI double deep to left field off the bat of Dan Veleas. Two batters later, Veleas was driven home on a single by Nick Melville, giving the Redcoats the lead.
“We had clutch hits today,” Leo Veleas said. “That’s the name of the game.”
Eastern tied the game in the top of the fourth, creating more two-out trouble for Berlin. Matt D’Amato led off the frame with a walk and a stolen base, but two straight outs by Addamo put the Redcoats on the cusp of maintaining their lead. But Noah Hickey dunked a single in front of Giancarlo Tufano in left field to tie the game, once again doing just enough to scratch across a run.
Once again, however, Berlin answered immediately. Paul D’Amore led off the bottom of the fourth with a booming double into the gap in right center field, and was pushed across by a pair of groundouts, the latter coming from Nick Melville, who was credited with the RBI and gave the Redcoats a 3-2 lead.
The Lancers had a chance for an immediate response themselves, but stranded runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the fifth after Addamo struck out Lozier looking and forced D’Amato into a weak groundout to second.
“Mark had a great performance,” Leo Veleas said after his starter allowed two runs over six plus innings. “He threw a lot of pitches but he said he felt good, and he got the job done.”
Eastern’s squandered rally proved to be a critical missed opportunity after the bottom of the inning.
After escaping trouble, Berlin created some of its own thanks to the bottom of the order. Giancarlo Tufano opened the frame with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Jack Zozikowski. Justin Piskorski came through with an RBI single to stretch the Redcoats’ lead to two, and advanced to third on the next batter after Fanelli rocked a double that shorthopped the left center field fence. Piskorski scored on an RBI groundout by Veleas, and Ryan Hyde drove in Fanelli with a double into the right center field gap, as Berlin began to tee off on a tiring Trevor Mays, who went six innings and allowed five earned runs and nine hits.
“I felt good,” Fanelli said after banging two hits and scoring twice in the winning effort. “I just love to be able to come out here and help the team win.”
The Redcoats put runners on second and third with one out later in the inning, but Mays escaped further damage as Berlin settled for three runs on four hits in the inning that seemed to put the contest out of reach, given how the Lancers had been swinging the bats of late.
Eastern pushed across a run in the seventh off reliever Camden Murphy, but the deficit was too great by then. The team’s chance to break the losing streak came in the fifth, right before the Redcoats grabbed momentum.
“That’s what always happens,” Giovinazzo said. “That’s what good teams do to you. If you let them off the hook, they make you pay.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org