Tolland Baseball Rallies Late to Defeat Rockville

TOLLAND-With Friday afternoon’s game entering the bottom of the fifth inning and the rain beginning to fall, the Tolland players and coaches knew they needed to quickly begin putting together good at bats against Rockville junior pitcher Shane Bogli. The team had benefited from a strong performance from junior pitcher Jacob Simon and trailed just 1-0. Now it was time for the offense to return the favor.

Tolland scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead, and went on to defeat the Rams by the same score. The key hit in the sequence was a two-run double by junior third baseman Clayton Keane.

With two outs in the top of the sixth, the game was halted due to rain and thunder, and the umpires and coaches decided to conclude play a half-hour later due to poor field conditions.

With the win, Tolland ended a two-game losing streak and improves to 5-2. Rockville is now 2-5 on the season and has lost four of its last five games.

The Eagles entered the bottom of the fifth having left multiple runners in scoring position against the crafty Bogli. With one out, junior Cody Ouellette kicked the attack off by hitting a fly ball single to center field. Junior first baseman Matt Curtis then smacked a line drive single to center, with Ouellette advancing to second base. Up next, senior designated hitter Tom Slane took on Bogli in a long at-bat before taking a low fastball and hitting a ground ball that senior shortstop Dylan Andrews was unable to corral, leading to a game-tying single. Finally, Keane gave Tolland the lead by jumping on a pitch high and inside and lining it over the head of senior center fielder Steve Hatch.

“Before I got up there, our third base coach told me to not drop my shoulder, so I just made sure to focus on doing that and hitting the ball in the gap to score a run and help our pitcher out,” Keane said. “I was able to keep my head down and hit it over the fielder. Our team never gives up. We always play to the last pitch in every inning.”

“We had been getting on base all game but were struggling to get that one big hit,” Tolland assistant coach Matt Clawson said. “It looked like Rockville’s pitcher was starting to tire and we eventually knew we had a good shot to come back. Luckily, Clay was able to be clutch.”

Rockville scored its lone run in the first on an RBI single to center by senior catcher Caleb Tourtelotte. The run was unearned, as leadoff hitter Hatch got on base thanks to an error by senior second baseman Matt Fusco.

After his challenging first inning, Simon consistently improved his pitching over the course of the game. He ended the second and third innings by striking out batters with runners on second (catching a second looking in the third), and consistently forced groundouts. Simon, who was making his first start of the season, demonstrated improved control and movement from start to finish.

“In the beginning of the game I think he was a little amped up, but once the game settled in he really started hitting his spots and mixing pitches,” Clawson said. “He threw three pitches for strikes, and our fielders did a great job supporting him on all the ground balls he got.”

Rockville head coach Greg Caron gave a clear explanation when asked why the Rams weren’t able to add to their early lead.

“We’re just a small ball team. That approach helped us score in the first, but in those latter innings we consistently couldn’t get the big hit with guys on,” he said. “When you don’t have guys who can consistently get extra base hits, it’s hard to score from first with two outs.”

Caron displayed frustration when asked about the Eagles rally.

“There were a couple of calls that didn’t go our way in the fourth, and I’m sure momentum was shifted from us to them.” he said. “They came out and put the ball on the bat better and some hits dropped. The rain that started also didn’t help us.”

Bogli pitched well prior to the fifth, showing good movement and consistently forcing hitters to get under the ball. Clawson said Bogli mixed his pitches well and helped cause Tolland batters “to do too much”. The team’s best chance to score came in the second, when it loaded the bases before senior center fielder Nick Paasch grounded out.

Tolland will face South Windsor and E.O. Smith next week, while Rockville will square off against Manchester, East Catholic and RHAM. Keane believes that Friday’s comeback win will give the Eagles momentum.

“Today we showed how good we actually are, which we haven’t done recently,” he said. “We need to continue showing confidence at the plate and relaxing in the field.”


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