By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
BRATTLEBORO, Vt., August 5 -- Short on numbers but not short on heart, the Torrington Twisters showed flashes of brilliance in the deciding game three of Monday's NECBL quarterfinal series.
But the Twisters have been betrayed by their defense at crucial times in the 2002 campaign and Monday night was no different as the top-seeded Keene Swamp Bats took advantage of a pair of heartbreaking errors to earn a 6-2 victory and capture the best-of-3 series, 2-1.
It was the second year in a row that Torrington won the series opener only to see the Swamp Bats win two in a row and eliminate the Twisters.
"We had so many guys leaving for various reasons, you didn't know who you would be playing with," said centerfielder John Cronin, who threw out a runner at home plate for the second straight game. "All you could do is play your heart out."
Two more players left the team after game two Sunday and pitcher Tim Rice, who was scheduled to pitch in game 3 when the series began, wasn't in uniform. He hasn't attended a game since he last pitched on July 30.
Torrington dressed only 14 players and closer Ladd Hall started at third base.
"We've never made a big deal about kids leaving," Twister coach Gregg Hunt said. "Someone else always steps in and plays to the best of their ability."
Twister starter Peter Maki was outstanding in his third start of the year, scattering eight hits and allowing only two earned runs.
"His job was to keep us in the game and he did," Hunt said. "He pitched out of some big jams."
The biggest jam was in the sixth inning when Keene had the bases loaded with one out. But Maki got Alex Derhak to fly out and Jeff Barry grounded out to end the inning.
The game turned on a pair of errors in the fifth inning. With the scored tied 2-2, Brendan Gilligan led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Derhak. But Maki bobbled the bunt and Derhak reached first base. A sacrifice bunt by Barry advanced each runner to second and third base.
Maki got Rocky Baker to ground out to Best-Berfet for the second out. But when Kevin Melillo lofted a fly ball to left field, the ball glanced off the glove of left fielder Mike Sokol and two runs scored for a 4-2 Swamp Bats lead.
Meanwhile, the Twisters couldn't take advantage of its opportunities. Ladd Hall's two-out single in the sixth inning moved Jim Fasano to third base. But Lou Ferrell grounded out to end the threat.
Keene iced the contest with a pair of runs in the eighth inning off reliever Tyler Dabo.
"We gave them all they could handle," Hunt said. "It's going to take a good team to beat them."
Keene took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a solo home run from Andy Laroche but Torrington tied the game in the third. Cronin walked, moved to third base on single to right field by Larry Best-Berfet and scored on a sacrifice fly by Lee Lipschutz.
The Twisters tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth. Cronin reached on an error and moved to second base on an overthrow by Melillo. Cronin moved to third on a single by Best-Berfet and scored when Lipschutz grounded into a double play.
For the second straight game, Cronin made a great play from centerfield to keep the game close. Sunday in game two, he threw out a Swamp Bat runner at home. Last night, Cronin threw out Baker, who tried to score from second base on an RBI single by Matt Carullo.
Twister catcher Emory Davies did a great job blocking the plate to tag out Baker and end the inning. Carillo's RBI single gave Keene a 2-1 lead.
"Everyone could have gone on vacation but the kids that stuck around played their hearts out," Cronin said.
Keene's Andy LaRoche was 3-for-4 with two RBI and a double while Brendan Gilligan was 3-for-4. Best-Berfet had two singles for the Twisters.
DIAMOND DUST: Sixteen players have left the Twisters this season for a variety of reasons, including injuries, school classes and family emergencies. ... The Twisters won game one over the Swamp Bats in last year's NECBL semifinals before the Bats won the next two games by a combined score of 18-6, including a 4-2 decision in game three. ... Keene has a 18-16 edge all time over the Twisters. ... Garrick Evans and Roberto Valiente both left the game after game two Sunday. ... Keene advanced to the semifinals for the fourth straight year.
Torrington 001 010 000 -- 2-7-3
Keene 011 020 02x -- 6-11-2
Peter Maki, Tyler Dabo (8) and Emory Davies; Jeff Hahn, Jason Koskow (9) and Alex Derhak; WP: Hahn (1-0); LP:
Maki (0-1); 2B: Andy Laroche (K); HR: Matt Carillo (K)