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Crushers fall to Burlington, 7-3, at Dunkin’ Park

Cam Gaudet fires up the Crushers during Thursday night’s tri-State League game at Dunkin’ Park in Hartford against the Burlington Hunters. More photos from the game

HARTFORD, June 29, 2023 – It was an evening of baseball, family and friends on Thursday night at Dunkin’ Park, the impressive home for the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

No one warmed up on the infield or placed a foot on the infield grass until the first pitch was thrown in the Tri-State League game between the Canton Crushers and Burlington Hunters. Two fathers on the Burlington team brought their young sons to the game, dressed in small Hunter uniforms.

Michael O’Keefe, whose brother-in-law and best friend play for the Hunters, played catch with his six-year-old son on the lush outfield grass as the players prepared for the first Tri-State League contest in the ballpark.

Dozens of friends and family members were in the stands to watch their loved ones play baseball on a sunny, warm summer evening at Dunkin’ Park, named the best Double A ballpark in the nation four times in the last six years by Ballpark Digest.

“We all play because we love the game and we had this opportunity to play in a professional stadium,” Burlington player/coach Andrew Bunger said. “We just ran with it and here we are.”

Burlington’s Ryan Lavelle had a pair of doubles and drove in three runs to lead Burlington to a 7-3 win over the Crushers, who were limited to three hits by four Burlington pitchers.

Even with their fourth straight loss, the Crushers (3-10) were smiling about their chance to play at the facility. “It is definitely the best field we have ever played on,” Canton starting pitcher Jim Spirito said. “That alone brought some energy to the game.”

Added Canton relief pitcher Cam Gaudet, “It was a beautiful night. It’s a beautiful stadium, one of the best stadiums in the country, if not the best. We came out with a lot of energy. Both teams really wanted it.”

Bunger said the two teams had to raise $3,000 to cover the cost of the contest. Each player chipped in some money and the Hunters had several area businesses donate to help cover the rental fee. A concession stand was open and the big Dunkin’ Park scoreboards were all operational.

“It was awesome,” Bunger said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

Burlington (9-4) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. With one out and Jay Pelletier at first base, Ty Morin doubled to move Pelletier to third base. Chris Rossi was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Lavelle ripped a two-run double down the third base line.

The Hunters made it 3-0 in the third inning. George Zaruba reached base with a one-out single and quickly stole second base. He scored on Zack Martin’s RBI single to extend their lead.

Canton shortstop Ben Sullivan waits for the ball as Burlington’s George Zaruba (99) steals second base in Thursday night’s Tri-State League game in Hartford. More photos from the game

Burlington made it 4-0 in the fourth inning. Morin led off the inning with a walk and stole second base. He scored on another Lavelle’ double. “I was just looking for something good to hit,” Lavelle said.

Canton finally got a rally going in the fifth inning with three runs to trim the Burlington lead to one run. Catcher Jeff Mulhall doubled with one out and Nick Michanczyk walked with two outs to put a pair of runners on base.

Ben Sullivan reached on an error, allowing Mulhall and Michanczyk to score runs. When Jake Bryant reached on an error, Sullivan scored to cut the Burlington lead to one run, 4-3.

But the Hunters got three more runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to an error, three walks and a hit batter. Tomasso Tollis had a RBI walk while Morin picked up another RBI with his ground ball out to shortstop.

The Crushers return to action on Thursday, July 6 when they host Winsted at 5:45 p.m. at Bowdoin Field. Burlington travels to Municipal Stadium in Waterbury on July 6 to face the Connecticut Gamecocks.

Burlington 7, Canton 3
At Hartford

Canton (3-10)          000  030  0  — 3-3-1
Burlington (9-4)      021  130  x  — 7-6-3
Jim Spirito, James Michanczyk (3), Heath Cotton (5), Cam Gaudett (6) and Jeff Mulhall; Ryan Stackpole, Alex Hanson (4), Tyler Doyle (5),  Colby Welch (5) and Chris Rossi; WP: Stackpole; LP: Jim Spirito (2-3); 2B: Jeff Mulhall (C), Ryan Lavelle (B) 2, Ty Morin (B)

The Canton Crushers were part of the first Tri-State League game at Dunkin’ Park in Hartford on Thursday night. More photos from the game

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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