Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bristol enjoys a memorable month

Forgive Matt Petrizzi for not quite grasping what he and his Bristol teammates achieved in the month of July.

Perhaps he will, or they all will sometime today, the last day of the month and, quite possibly, the only day of the month they’ve been off and nowhere near a baseball field.

They certainly earned the break, as brief as it will be, after bouncing back from their first loss in nearly three weeks – a 5-1 setback to Boyertown in Game 14 of the Pennsylvania American Legion State Tournament – with a no-doubt-about-it, 11-3 bombing of the very same Boyertown ballclub in Game 15, or Saturday’s final.

“I don’t know if this is the biggest shock for us,” Petrizzi said as his teammates and fans celebrated along the third-base line of Owls Field. “But there are a lot of good teams in Pennsylvania, and to be the best in Pennsylvania … I guess that’s not bad.”

Not bad?

First of all, the state title is the first in the history of Bristol’s program, which began long, long before Petrizzi or even his parents were born. How it was won, well, let’s just say the new kids on American Legion’s baseball block obviously weren’t intimidated by anyone along the way.

And there sure were some imposing opponents to deal with.

What would become a now memorable postseason began just over two weeks ago, when Bristol swept Yardley Western, 15-7 and 6-1, for the Lower Bucks League title. Yardley Western, for those who have forgotten (or didn’t know), has won three state titles and finished second in three others, and even won the World Series back in 1996.

Last week, Bristol scored 81 runs in five straight wins, the last a 10-inning, 16-15 marathon over Spring City for the Region Three Tournament title. The sweep ended a run of five straight championships by Chester County League teams. Oh yeah, Spring City, for those who have forgotten (or didn’t know), was both the defending regional and state champion.

This week, Bristol used a little bit of pitching, defense and hitting – in other words, not just the bats – to beat West Hempfield (12-1), West Lawn (8-1), Boyertown (5-2) and Blackhawk (10-5) to get to the final day. And after Boyertown ace Steve Price did what few if any pitchers did in the first game Saturday (limiting Bristol to just one run that, incidentally, snapped a 12-game winning streak), the Region Three champions came back with a near-flawless finale to bump the Bears for that still coveted state title. Boyertown, for those few who have forgotten (or haven’t followed American Legion baseball for the last fortysome years), was hoping to catch the organization’s record 23rd state title his weekend.

Neither Petrizzi nor anyone else on the Bristol roster, which consisted mostly of Conwell Egan High School players, could have possibly envisioned such a run. This past spring, they were ousted in the second round of the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs. Less than a week later, their season ended in the first round of districts.

Bristol owned a good but not necessarily watch-out, here-they-come, 16-5 record going into the Lower Bucks League playoffs.

“All we heard during the state regional was people saying Spring City and (NorChester) were supposed to win,” Petrizzi said. “But we played well, and we came in here (to states) in a positive frame of mind. We didn’t relax, though. We played hard.”

Bristol didn’t exactly blow away the opposition, at least not as it did the week before over at Owen J. Roberts. And after losing to the Bears in Game 14… considering Boyertown was 22-3 overall in state-final games since winning the first of those 22 titles back in 1969, the odds weren’t exactly favoring a Bristol comeback in Saturday’s nightcap.

But talk about making all the right moves.

Manager Tim Monaghan sent Steve Arthur to the mound. The right-hander, who received the Outstanding Pitcher Award, gave up 13 hits, but no more than two in any inning and never wavered despite throwing 153 pitches over nine innings. The defense behind him was anything but generous, turning three double plays. The first was certainly a momentum-changer, ending a potentially big second-inning Boyertown burst. Petrizzi, the shortstop, and third baseman Zach Philippi took care of everything hit to the left side of the infield. Even catcher Brian Beyer, who received the MVP Award, contributed by throwing out a Bear runner on an attempted steal of third.

And those bats?

Back to the Bristol Stomp – as in 18 against three Boyertown pitchers. Sprinkle all them in between four errors and, well, that was way too much for the Bears to overcome.

“The bats… it was weird,” Petrizzi said. “We put up a lot of runs last week, but when we came in here (the bats) weren’t as hot. But our defense was on. Defense has been our strength all year.

“We had been winning a lot, so that first game (Saturday) was a wake-up call for us. We had no doubts we could come back. And when we got our bats going again…”

Enough said.

Boyertown manager Rick Moatz, who like Dave Specht and Dick Ludy did before him, had to be thinking Saturday Sweep after Price’s eight-hit, six-strikeout effort in Game 14.

“We felt very good,” said Moatz, whose team will join Bristol – and third-place Blackhawk – in this week’s Mid-Atlantic Regional at Bear Stadium. “We hit the ball, played excellent defense, and with Price shutting (Bristol) down like he did.

“But (Bristol) is a very aggressive team. They hit the ball well. They don’t let up. They’re a very good team.”

Moatz admitted it was a bit of an up-hill climb after falling behind 2-1 in the third, then 6-1 in the sixth.

“It isn’t easy playing come-from-behind when you’re going up against a pitcher who wins the pitching award and a catcher who wins the MVP award,” Moatz said. “They definitely put us behind the eight-ball. (Arthur) threw strikes and worked ahead in the count for the most part. (Bristol) just did a good job.”

The Bears, who fell to 42-11, will close out Thursday’s opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Regional against the West Virginia state champion.

“We’ll be confident going into the regional,” Moatz said. “We actually played really well all this week. I thought we played better this week than we did last week (at the Region Two Tournament). The kids picked it up.”


Boyertown catcher Josh Schnell was presented the Batting Award after hitting .476 (10-for-21) with 10 runs scored in the tournament. … The state title has been won by a Region Two or Three champion eight straight years now – or since Region Six power Blackhawk defeated Paoli (5-2) in the 2003 final. The two regions have also swept 27 state titles since 1981.



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