By David F. Pendrys
BRIDGEPORT, CT- Usually when a team’s starting pitcher is knocked from the game in the first inning it spells deep trouble, but the Somerset Patriots survived and thrived to defeat the Bridgeport Bluefish 6 to 2 Wednesday night.
Bridgeport’s Mike Antonini would take the loss, but didn’t have a bad outing.
In the top of the first he got out of a jam with runners on second and third when Somerset’s Mike Fields flied out. Bridgeport had prevented a lead runner from getting very far earlier in the inning by catching them in a rundown at third.
In the bottom of the inning Matt Bywater took the mound for the Patriots. Bridgeport’s Luis Nunez reached base when his grounded got through the first baseman’s legs, though this was sandwiched by two Bridgeport outs. Bywater proceeded to walk Don Johnson and hit Josh Vitters, loading the bases with two outs. He then walked Wilkin Ramirez and Carlos Sosa which naturally brought in Nunez and Johnson for a 2-0 Bridgeport lead.
Bywater was quickly replaced by Donovan Hand and a succession of Patriots pitchers who held the home team to 3 hits and no runs. Bywater’s 3 walks were matched by the rest of the pitching staff in the other 8.2 innings. Hand in 2 and a third innings produced 3 of the team’s 7 strikeouts.
With Bluefish in striking distance for another run Eric Farris got Somerset out of the inning with a great grab.
Antonini got to the sixth with little incident, but then things went awry. After walking David Vidal, Fields hit a double to right bringing Vidal to third. Antonini struck out Carlos Guzman and Robert Kral replaced Vidal as a pinch runner at third. Yovan Gonzalez reached base on an error and a run scored. Immediately following that Mycal Jones laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Antonini threw to first where no one was covering and the ball sailed away allowing another run to score.
Controversy followed after Scott Kelly grounded to second and the Bluefish thought they had a double play but the funner at first was called safe and another run had scored. Antonini would get out of the inning but the damage was done.
This would be all the Patriots would need but they would get more. Joseph Kuzia relieved Antonini in the seventh. With two outs, Eric Farris singled to right, and Kral hit a ground rule double just inside the line in left. Fields drove both in with his double to left field. By the time the inning ended it would be 5-2.
The Patriots would tack on a run in the top of the ninth off Eric Niesen after Kral came up with a triple and was driven in on a ground out later.
Brian Moran was the only Bridgeport pitcher to not give up a run. Antonini exited the game after six with 5 hits given up, 3 runs, but only 2 earned, two walks and six strike outs.
With only 3 hits on the day, Bridgeport’s bats were fairly quiet. Kral, Fields and Jones each had 2 hits for Somerset and Fields added 3 RBI to his resume. Somerset picked up 11 hits on the evening.
The two teams meet again Thursday night in Bridgeport.