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Conard Baseball Falls Short in Loss to Bristol Central

Nolan Wusterbarth pitched six innings for Conard, allowing three earned runs. Conard vs. Bristol Central baseball. May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Jack Fitzgerald

Conard baseball hosted Bristol Central Friday in West Hartford.

By Jack Fitzgerald

The Red Wolves’ (1-13) struggles on the diamond continued Friday night with a 9-3 loss to Bristol Central (9-3).

Bristol Central set the tone early, opening the scoring with Oscar Kuzniar’s hard ground ball to left field, bringing Aiden Lopez home.

Leadoff hitter Jayden Kass’ double on a fly ball to center field marked Conard’s first hit. Nolan Wusterbarth’s single brought Kass home, leveling the score to end the first.

Leo Vangas reaches second base. Conard vs. Bristol Central baseball. May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Jack Fitzgerald

The next three innings came and went, with neither team able to take the lead. Tom Pirog retired the mound for Bristol Central after the third. Lopez took over pitching duties and earned the win, allowing two runs on two hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.

To hear Conard head coach Brendan Smith tell it, the lack of early runs was a significant factor in the loss. “We came out a little flat in the first couple innings, we had opportunities, and we didn’t capitalize. Nolan was pitching well, but we just didn’t get the runs we needed across those first couple of innings to take a lead, and then they had a very talented pitcher that came in and shut us down. We wish we could’ve had those at-bats back.”

Jack Kane awaits the swing. Conard vs. Bristol Central baseball. May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Jack Fitzgerald

Bristol Central broke the game open at the top of the fifth, as the Rams scored four runs in quick succession. Lopez hit a ground ball to reach first, Anthony Santilli got on base due to an error by the shortstop, and Wusterbarth walked Joseph Gratta to load the bases.

Lopez scored after Kuznair hit a line-drive ball to center field. Mason Allen got Santilli home on the sacrifice fly. Micheal McMahon singled on another line drive to center field, scoring Gratta. Rocco Spirito rounded out the inning when he batted in Kuznair.

Conard couldn’t rebound in the bottom of the fifth, ending their fourth straight inning without a run.

Lopez singled to open the sixth for Bristol Central, and after a brief discussion, Coach Smith pulled his starting pitcher. Wusterbarth made a valiant effort but took the loss for Conard, allowing five runs (three earned) on nine hits, striking out none, and walking three.

After the game, Coach Smith added, “Nolan threw about as well as he has all year. There’s an inning there where he wishes he might’ve had some pitches back, but he definitely looks a lot more like himself.” Elijah Avecedo took over the mound for the final two innings. Two stolen bases went for naught as the Rams hit three straight groundouts, ending the top of the sixth without a run.

Ben Hammond had 1 RBI v. Bristol Central. Conard vs. Bristol Central baseball. May 3, 2024. Photo credit: Jack Fitzgerald

Conard gained some much-needed momentum at the bottom of the sixth after Damian Wiktor walked, and an errant pitch hit Acevedo. Ben Hammond drove in Wiktor to make the score 5-2. On the subsequent at-bat, Wyatt Diagle bunted, getting Acevedo out on a fielder’s choice while trying to advance to third. Andrew Weiss rounded out the scoring for Conard as his single to left field let Hammond reach home. Lopez struck out Kass to stop the bleeding, as the inning ended 5-3 in favor of Bristol.

The Rams, trying to prevent a late rally, piled on four more runs in the seventh. Spirito hit a hard ground ball and reached base on an error, scoring Allen. Conard dug themselves an even deeper hole after Lopez’s single scored McMahon, and an error by the left fielder let Spirito and Tim Sample score.

“Elijah played well behind the plate,” said Smith, “We just made some mental mistakes late, and I wish we had some of those errors back.”

Conard ended the game with three straight outs. Despite the loss, Smith felt the game had a silver lining: “We competed, and that’s what matters most to me.” The team’s resilience and determination underscored his post-game reflections. “We all know that we are on the doorstep of winning; we just need to get across the finish line,” he added.

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