TRI-STATE PLAYOFFS: Matt Mancini’s homer lifts Bethlehem Plowboys past Wolcott Scrappers

Bethlehem’s Matt Mancini launches his go-ahead home run Friday evening at Gallop Field.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

The Wolcott Scrappers snuffed out a Bethlehem Plowboy rally in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday evening when catcher Mike Grasso threw out Mike Milius trying to steal second base.
All that did was set the stage for some heroics from former Sacred Heart first baseman Matt Mancini.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth inning of a tied Tri-State playoff game, Mancini blasted a Justin Koutros pitch over the fence in right center field at Gallop Field to put Bethlehem ahead 2-1. Pitcher Tyler Erickson, a former Holy Cross hurler, made the run stand up for the Plowboys in the top of the seventh as they finished off the 2-1 victory.

Wolcott’s Israel Lugo touches home after his first inning home run.
Looking on is teammate Elvis Martinez. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

It was the first game back in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League Playoffs for both teams after a layoff for the Stan Musial State Tournament and the AABC East Coast World Series. Bethlehem plays in the winner’s game Saturday while Wolcott must win its elimination game, also Saturday, to stay alive.
All three runs in Friday’s game came via the home run. Israel Lugo got the rare fireworks started when he somehow muscled an inside offering from Erickson over the fence in left center field to put Wolcott ahead 1-0.
In the bottom of the first, former Holy Cross standout Mike Chiovitti answered for Bethlehem with a solo shot over the right field fence to even the game at 1-1.

Bethlehem’s Mike Chiovitti points to the sky as he touches home after
his first inning home run. Looking on is Mancini. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

Pitchers Koutros and Erickson combined for four and a half scoreless innings between them before Mancini’s home run in the bottom of the sixth. Koutros found himself in more trouble than Erickson, but his defense bailed him out with a couple terrific plays.
In the first, Bethlehem catcher Tony Geraci made a bid for a home run just to the right of center field, but Wolcott centerfielder Clete LoRusso reached over the fence and robbed the veteran backstop. Right fielder Matt Cyr later took away an extra base hit by Geraci with a running catch.
Erickson went after the Scrapper hitters and had great results. Wolcott managed just two baserunners after the first inning, a single by Matt Cyr and hit by pitch for Eric Soucy. Erickson struck out 12, walked none, and had the one hit batter.
After the Chiovitti homer in the Bethlehem half of the first inning, Mancini singled but Koutros escaped with the great catch by LoRusso. 
Koutros worked around a one-out walk in the second, then evaded a big inning in the fourth. A walk and single put runners on first and second to start the frame, but Koutros got two fly outs and a running catch in foul ground by Grasso to end the threat.
Koutros worked his way out of jams, but two mistakes to left-handed batters burned him, and the Wolcott offense couldn’t make up the difference. The Scrappers will need to turn up the offense to win Saturday and avoid elimination.