By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
TORRINGTON, Aug. 8, 2003 -- The pitching has been special all season long for the Twisters. It carried Torrington to a 30-win season, a Southern Division title, the best winning percentage in league history (.750) and the best ERA ever (2.18).
Last night against the two-time defending champion Newport Gulls, the Twister defense stood up and demanded to be noticed.
Outstanding defensive plays from shortstop Armand Gaerlan and third baseman John Ingram helped the Twisters beat the Gulls, 2-0 in a playoff gem to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 Southern Division finals at Fuessenich Park.
Torrington starting pitcher Matt Torra was outstanding, scattering five hits and fanning seven, including three of the final six Gull batters he faced. Newport starter James Duffey allowed only three hits but it was enough for the Twisters, who once again scored with two outs.
The Twisters have scored six runs in the post-season and all six have come with two outs.
Game two is tonight at Cardines Field in Newport with game three, if necessary, set for Sunday at Fuessenich Park.
The Twisters beat Newport for the first time this year after dropping four straight games to the Gulls, including a 12-1 beating in Newport on July 28.
"The defense has been solid all year. Tonight it was extra special," Twister manager Gregg Hunt said.
Added Torra, "It was probably the best defense I have had behind me in a game that I have pitched."
The game was scoreless in the fifth when Newport's leadoff hitter Tim Pahuta singled. Ryan Chambers sent a Torra pitch up the middle that Garelan laid out for and grabbed. On his belly, he quickly tossed it to second baseman Zak Farkes, who zipped it to first base for the double play.
Instead of runners on first and second with no outs, there was two outs.
"That was a big change in momentum," Hunt said.
Torrington responded in the bottom of the fifth. Duffey hit leadoff hitter Brandon Roberts and walked Ingram. Twister catcher Emory Davies laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in front of the plate to advance the runners to second and third base.
When Chris Kelly grounded back to the Duffey, Roberts was caught leaning off first but he kept the rundown going long enough for Ingram to reach third and Kelly to reach second base.
Brian Cavanaugh responded with a two-RBI single to left field for a 2-0 lead.
"We don't get a lot of hits but we get them at the right time," Hunt said with a grin. It was the lowest number of hits ever by the Twisters in 21 playoff games.
The Twister defense did the rest. Newport loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. But when Newport's Greg Isaacson lifted a fly ball down the third base line, Ingram raced after it and made a diving over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory to end the threat.
With one out in the eighth, Newport got two runners on base thanks to an error and a single. But Torra reached back and struck out Jason Armstrong and Isaacson to end the threat with his 90-mph fastballs.
In the top of the ninth, Woodbury lefthander Peter Maki quickly struck out the first two Gull batters and got the final batter to ground out to earn his first playoff save. Maki succeeded with his quirky motion and his 70-mph pitches that moved.
DIAMOND DUST: Ben Rowe (3-1, 1.54 ERA) is scheduled to pitch in game two tonight with Jason Bolonski (3-2, 2.38) set to go in game three, if necessary, on Sunday. .... Newport had beaten Torrington six straight times and in seven of the last eight games before losing last night. The Gulls had the second highest batting average in the league this year at .275. ... The Twisters have a 2-9 lifetime record at Cardines Field . ... Torrington has won three playoff games in a row for the first time in team history. ... Before last night, the least number of hits by Torrington in a game was four against Middletown on Aug. 7, 1998. ... Twister hurler Dennis Robinson set a team playoff record with 10 strikeouts in game one of the division semifinals Wednesday against Middletown.
Newport 000 000 000 -- 0-5-1
Torrington 000 020 00x -- 2-3-1
James Duffey and Cesar Yepez; Matt Torra, Peter Maki (8) and Emory Davies; WP: Torra (1-0); LP: Duffey (0-1); Save: Maki (1). Attendance 731.
Big inning lifts Twisters past Gulls
Torrington moves into finals for first time since 1998
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
August 10, 2003 -- Zak Farkes ripped a three-RBI double in the second inning as the Twisters survived a 1:57 rain delay and outlasted the two-time defending NECBL champion Newport Gulls, 6-4 at Cardines Field last night in Newport to earn a spot in the NECBL championship series for the first time since 1998.
The Twisters, who swept the Southern Division final 2-0, will face Keene in game one tonight at Fuessenich Park at 7 p.m. The Swamp Bats are in the finals for the fourth straight year. The Twisters swept a pair from Keene this year, winning 1-0 and 6-5.
Torrington scored six runs on five hits in the second inning against the Gulls. Farkes had the key hit with one out. Jeff Hourigan, John Ingram and Emory Davies each added RBI singles in the pivotal inning.
Twister starting pitcher Ben Rowe struggled after the long rain delay, allowing eight hits in the second to fifth inning. But he worked out of several jams. He coaxed Jason Armstrong to ground into an inning-ending double play in the third inning with the bases loaded.
In the fifth, Rowe allowed Newport to get its first two runners on base thanks to a hit batter and single. But Rowe bore down to strike out the next two batters. One run scored on a wild pitch and Rowe got John Quigley to fly out to get out of the jam.
Newport cut the lead to 6-3 on a Greg Isaacson home run off Twister reliever Matt Brunnig in the seventh inning.
Newport threatened in the ninth loading the bases with no outs. Kevin Roberts and Javi Soccoro led off with back-to-back singles off Brunnig before Greg Isaacson coaxed a walk from reliever Peter Maki to load the bases. One run scored when an infield fly rule was dropped but Maki coaxed two fly balls to preserve the win.
Hourigan added a double in the fifth for the Twisters, who captured a team-record fourth straight playoff game.
Newport reliever Eric Chown was outstanding, striking out 10 and allowing only two hits after coming in the second inning after the Twisters had taken a 5-0 lead. Torrington swept the Gulls after losing six straight games to Newport, including four in the regular season this year.
Torrington 060 000 000 -- 6-6-2
Newport 010 010 101 -- 4-11-2
Ben Rowe, Matt Brunnig (6), Peter Maki (9) and Emory Davies; Tom Thornton, Buddy Bengel (2), Eric Chown (2) and Chris Ianetta; WP: Rowe (1-0); LP: Thornton (0-1), Save: Maki (2); 2B: Jeff Hourigan (T), John Quigley (N), Zak Farkes (T); HR: Greg Isaacson (N)