RCP heads to Legion World Series

By Steve Smith, Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN – In a game that was chock full of highlights, Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland, commonly referred to as RCP, bested the team from Milford, Mass. by a score of 5-4 and will go on to represent the Northeast Region in the Legion World Series.

RCP and Milford had each lost one game in the double-elimination tournament, and faced off in Middletown, where RCP had defeated the host team to reach the championship matchup.

Milford opened the scoring right away, getting its first run with two outs, and then RCP trailed for the first half of the game, but kept that lead to one run with heads-up defense, including a great play by third-baseman Chris Boucher, gunning down a run at home on a slow infield dribbler in the second inning.

RCP threatened in several innings and finally broke through in the 5th, when Josh Zawisa doubled and then Christian Budzik followed that up with a triple.

“It was a fastball,” Budzik said. “I was just trying to hit a line drive over the second-baseman’s head.”

But the Bay Staters jumped ahead again with a 6th inning rally. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, a base hit plated one. Then back to back doubles netted two more runs to put the Commonwealth up 4-1.

In the 7th, Alex Ramirez and Logan Lessard both reached base on errors, then Zawisa took a bean ball. Budzik then singled and drove in a run. With the bases still loaded, Brendan Sullivan drew a walk, plating Lessard, and a passed ball scored Zawisa to tie the game.

RCP’s starting pitcher Cole Ogorzalek, who pitched the complete game, bailed himself out of several jams, and only had one inning without Milford baserunners. In the 8th, Ogorzalek had the bases loaded after second baseman Cory Baldwin bobbled a grounder. He quickly bailed himself out with a great stop on a sharply hit ball and a put out to end the inning.

Ogorzalek put two on in the ninth, but was again bailed out by his team’s defense, and some crafty throws.

In the bottom of the ninth, Budzik drew a walk, and then was moved over to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Brendan Sullivan. That was when Tommy Seaver drove a hit into the gap in right center past a diving right-fielder, and Budzik easily chugged around from second for the win.

Seaver said he was simply trying to put the ball in play, because he knew Budzik would find a way to score, and found a pitch he liked.

“I tried going the other way, and it was outside,” he said, adding that he did feel a little pressure at the moment, but also enjoyed it. “I was a little nervous, but it felt good getting up there.”
RCP Coach Jay Hickey said his team played hard, and had to because Milford was certainly not an easy team to beat.

“They are an outstanding hitting team,” Hickey said. “They are very good, and we just hung in there. We broke the ice in the fifth, and that made us believe we could do it. Then we tied it up in the seventh, and Cole pitched a gutsy game, got out of a couple of tough jams.”

“They were by far the best team we’ve played this year,” Budzik said.

Hickey said that while he warmed up relievers at times, he never really thought about taking Ogorzalek out.

“He was throwing well,” the coach said. “It wasn’t his fault, and I don’t like to take a kid out when it’s not his fault. He was making the pitches and that was a good hitting team. Everything was working for him.”

“I usually give up some hits, but I trust my defense,” Ogorzalek said. “They are a good team – they put the ball in play, like I expected.”

Later in the game, Orgozalek said, he tried a different strategy on the Massachusetts batters, which worked.

“We started working them in with fastballs, and then throwing change-ups away, and that kind of kept them off balance,” he said, adding that he didn’t tire or want to leave the game.

“Honestly, I felt better in the 9th than I did in the 1st. That adrenaline just kicked in and I was ready to go three more,” he said.

Hickey added that Budzik, Seaver and several others were clutch throughout the tournament.

“Everyone’s had a great game, one game or another,” he said. “The whole team is doing it together, and they play well with each other, and having a great time.”

RCP will face defending Mid-Atlantic Region representative and defending national champion, Brooklawn, New Jersey on Aug. 14 at noon in Shelby, North Carolina. It is the first time RCP has played in the Legion World Series.

“It’s unbelievable,” Hickey said. “This is fantastic. It’s an unbelievable experience.”

“This is unreal,” Ogorzalek said. “We all knew it was possible in the beginning of the season. The fact that we could get it done is mind-boggling. It’s great.”

“It’s crazy,” Budzik said. “It’s awesome.”

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