AMERICAN LEGION: Front-running Cheshire remains in the zone, routs second-place Meriden

AMERICAN LEGION: Front-running Cheshire remains in the zone, routs second-place Meriden

MERIDEN — Well, there is always tomorrow.

Meriden’s Post 45 certainly wasn’t at its best Wednesday at Legion Field, where it lost 8-0 to Cheshire. In a matchup of American Legion Zone 2’s top two teams, Meriden committed five of its six errors in the first three innings.

Three errors and two wild pitches in the third inning alone staked Cheshire to a 6-0 lead.

Post 92 tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to improve to 8-0 on the season. Meriden fell to 6-3.

The two teams meet again Thursday at Cheshire High School. Tuesday’s opener of a three-game series between the two teams was washed out.

“It was a very disappointing game,” Post 45 head coach Doug Wedge said. “I expect more out of this team. We were in second place coming in, playing well.

“But I’ve stressed to them all year: pitching and defense; pitching and defense; pitching and defense. We had no defense today. Just sloppy all over,” Wedge added. “The message tonight was we play them tomorrow and we have to straighten things out.”

Even at its best, Meriden would have likely been no match for Cheshire starting pitcher Ben Shadeck.

Shadeck, back on Post 92 bump after his freshman season at the University of New Haven, struck out 12 Meriden batters in six innings. One of the aces on Cheshire’s 2018 Class LL state high school championship team, Shadeck allowed just two hits on Wednesday night. He walked one batter and hit another Post 45 hitter.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefty dominated Meriden from the start with an overpowering fastball. Mixing in a sharp curveball, Shadeck (3-0) struck out seven straight Post 45 batters at one point from the fourth through sixth innings.

Only a Peyton Thiel single in the fifth inning broke up Shadeck’s string of strikeouts.

“He was definitely changing speeds,” Thiel said. “He got me my first at-bat. I had to adjust.

“But Cheshire is Cheshire. They have great pitching,” added Thiel. “We just have to get on top of things. We just let the errors stack up and dwelled on ’em. We just kept making mistakes. We just have to forget about them next game.”

With Shadeck in complete control, there was little doubt of the outcome after Meriden’s early miscues. It was only a matter of how quickly Shadeck could finish off Post 45’s batters.

“The art of pitching is getting ahead and just throwing strikes,” Shadeck said. “And pitching with the lead is so relaxing.”

Shadeck needed just 94 pitches before giving way to Ben Schena in the seventh inning. All Schena did was strike out two of the three Meriden hitters he faced to complete the shutout.

Watching Shadeck dominate like he did didn’t come as a complete surprise to Cheshire head coach John Escoto.

“That’s about what he does,” Escoto said.

Still, Shadeck had Escoto laughing when the coach tried to wrap his head around just how dominating Shadeck was over six innings.

“Today … let’s just say he had a good game. It was a pretty good performance,” laughed Escoto. “He was rolling right along. He threw the right pitches and the right time. He did a great job.”

Giving extra outs to an offense like Cheshire’s is never a good idea, and that’s what Meriden did in the first inning when Cheshire struck for three runs.

Post 45 starter Mikey Gurzenda got no help from his defense, and with his pitch count rising, he lasted just an inning and a third before giving way to Brian Carabetta.

Gurzenda hit Cheshire leadoff hitter Paul Villicco to start the game. Villecco stole second and scored the game’s first run on Schena’s double to left-center field.

Schena then scored on a base hit by Ryan Strollo to make it 2-0.

The second of two errors in the first inning on a pickoff attempt allowed Schena to score from third base. Ian Battipaglia was picked off first base, but the ball was dropped.

Cheshire made it 6-0 in the third inning when Post 45 made three more errors. The runs, however, came on a pair of wild pitches by Carabetta.

Cheshire didn’t need much offense with Meriden’s mistakes piling up. Carabetta limited Cheshire to just three hits over 5 2/3 innings.

“They booted the ball around a little bit, but we capitalized on their mistakes,” Escoto said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Oh, and Shadeck, of course.

Meriden got just one batter to second base after Shadeck hit Cam Germe and walked Sean DuPuis in the second inning. Shadeck then struck out Thiel to end the second.

Shadeck gave up his first hit in the third inning, a solid single by Jake Baker. He would end the fourth and fifth innings with strikeouts.

Post 92 extended its lead to 7-0 in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Ian Battipaglia. The final run was driven in by Ian’s brother Eli, who singled home Andrew Declement. Eli Battipaglia had two of Cheshire’s five hits.