By Peter Dewey
Special to the Record-Journal
MERIDEN — Tyler Duffy allowed just one hit over 3 2/3 innings as Ed Walsh Little League picked up its second consecutive victory in the Meriden City Series, defeating South Meriden 5-4 on Saturday at Habershon Field.
This one was not short of drama, as South Meriden had the tying run on second and the winning run on first with nobody out in the seventh, but after a failed double steal South Meriden was unable to get the big hit to push across the tying run.
“No not at all,” South Meriden head coach Gabe Zamorano said if he regretted putting on the double steal. “You still have the runner in scoring position at second and the top of the order [coming up]. I just wanted to take the force out [away].”
Blake Benigni closed it out for Ed Walsh, which won the opener of the City Series 9-5 over Jack Barry on Friday night.
“These guys are gamers,” Ed Walsh head coach Mike Duffy said. “Usually at this level they start failing when they’re under pressure like that. These guys held it together and they did what they had to do.”
Ed Walsh took advantage of some sloppy South Meriden defense to jump out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning.
Three consecutive errors to open the game allowed Benigni to score in the first despite not tallying a single hit.
“They were good they just had to wake up,” Zamorano said. “They had a tough evening I think. The first two innings it was four or five errors. If you think about it four of those runs are unearned.
“Other than the [errors] I was proud of them. I thought they did good.”
In the second, Eli Showerda started the Ed Walsh rally with a single to center. Dominick Gianfriddo followed it up with a double down the line, but South Meriden had a perfect relay to cut Showerda down at the plate.
However, another error brought in a run and a walk to Benigni put two on with two out for Zach Burdacki with Ed Walsh leading 2-0.
Burdacki blasted his second homer in as many games, easily clearing the right center field fence, extending the Ed Walsh lead to 5-0.
“It’s huge [to have Burdacki],” Duffy said. “Zach is definitely a great athlete. He’s great behind the plate, he’s great pitching and great hitting.”
South Meriden would respond in the bottom half, as Jesus Arraez picked up the only hit off of Duffy, a solo shot to left center.
Duffy would then settle in, striking out the side to close out the second. He would finish with five strikeouts on the day.
“Tyler did a great job,” Duffy said. “It’s what I expect out of him. Obviously, I’m his dad, I’ve been coaching him for years so I know what to expect out of him.”
South Meriden starter Sean Nowicky would survive another error in the third, before tossing a 1-2-3 fourth.
Arraez again set the table for South Meriden, reaching on an E-7 on a sky-high fly ball. The South Meriden third baseman would then steal third, allowing Nowicky to drive him in on a ground out to second.
South Meriden struck again in the fifth by getting aggressive on the basepaths.
Braelen Silverio worked a leadoff walk, and pinch runner Caleb Datchuck stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball.
He came around to score on another passed ball by Burdacki who had come in to relieve Duffy in the fourth.
Arraez struck again in the sixth, driving in Dave Stimpson on a grounder to short to bring South Meriden within one, but Burdacki struck out two to strand a runner on second heading into the seventh.
Ed Walsh wouldn’t get much going offensively against Stimpson in the fifth and sixth but loaded the bases in the seventh on three consecutive walks.
Stimpson would bear down, picking up two more strikeouts (he had four on the day) to keep South Meriden within one.
“We just didn’t hit in the end,” Zamorano said. “It’s baseball.”
South Meriden will face Jack Barry on Sunday at 10 a.m. with the winner advancing to play Ed Walsh in the City Series Championship on Wednesday.
“We’re confident,” Zamorano said. “Confident in our pitcher that’s going to be on the mound in [Arraez]. I’m sure they’re going to throw their best but I think we’re going to be alright.”
As for Ed Walsh, they will have three days off before the championship game, which will help Duffy get more of this team acclimated to each other.
“I think it’s great,” Duffy said of making the championship.
“We came into this not sure what to expect. A lot of these kids haven’t played together.
“Half of the kids haven’t made practices because everybody’s on vacation so it really is like we threw the team together. A good chunk of them haven’t played a full game together until now. I’m proud of them.”