TWILIGHT BASEBALL: Vernon Orioles blank Record-Journal Expos to land fifth straight Greater Hartford crown

TWILIGHT BASEBALL: Vernon Orioles blank Record-Journal Expos to land fifth straight Greater Hartford crown


HARTFORD — The Record-Journal Expos pulled off the upset of the postseason when they toppled the top-seeded and defending champion Vernon Orioles in the second round of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs.

In the end, though, this double-elimination tournament ended exactly like the previous four: with Vernon raising the championship trophy.

The Orioles completed their fifth straight Greater Hartford title run with a 4-0 victory over the Expos at Trinity College on Saturday night. The victory, coming in a winner-take-all finale, was set up by Vernon’s 5-0 blanking of the R-J squad on Friday.

As the No. 5 seed, the Expos were gamers to the end, especially pitcher Charlie Hesseltine, who worked Saturday night on just two night’s rest. The veteran left-hander kept the Expos to within 1-0 before the Orioles opened things up with a three-run fifth.

Turns out the one run would have been enough. The Expos went hitless against starter Jared Hydo, who worked five innings. They got two hits off reliever Tyler Pogmore, but squandered both.

“It’s a little unsettling,” said Expos player/manager Sean Zapatka. “We had a chance to wrap this up in one and we couldn’t do it in two.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team,” Zapatka added. “Obviously, it was disappointing way to end the year, but I couldn’t ask for a better team. We’re going to bring back the same guys next year and we’re going to take the title home next year.”

The Expos had a glittering chance to grab the upper hand Saturday. They put two runners aboard in the top of the first — John Walter and Isaiah Rivera drew back-to-back walks — before a double play ended the threat.

In the bottom half of the inning, Hessltine worked a 1-2-3 frame. Hydo returned the favor in the top of the second, then watched his mates stake him to a 1-0 lead.

Alex Zachary led off with a ground-rule double to right center, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly from Wes Hurty.

In the meantime, Hydo hit his stride. He issued a second walk to Rivera in the fourth, but the league’s stolen base leader was caught trying to swipe second.

Francisco Asencio drew a walk in the fifth. To no avail. Through five, the Expos were hitless.

Worse, they were further behind. Jack Halpin and Paul Dougan delivered RBI singles and Halpin capped the three-run burst by scoring on a wild pitch.

Down 4-0 and down to their last six outs, the Expos got something going in the top of the sixth when Pogmorer relieved. A.J. Hendrickson reached on an error and Hector Gonzalez finally got the R-J in the hit column with a double to the left field wall.

That put runners on second and third with no outs. Pogmore bore down. He induced a pop-up, come-backer and ground ball to third to end the theat.

Ascensio’s single in the seventh was the last gasp for the Expos — at least for this season.

“Now we have the experience,” said Zapatka. “Only three or four of these guys have gone through the playoffs. Now everyone knows how much of a grind it is. We’re going to work in the postseason about building our pitching staff and getting more depth so that we can be more effective in next year’s playoffs.”


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