BASEBALL: R-J Expos gearing up for stretch run

BASEBALL: R-J Expos gearing up for stretch run

MERIDEN – The Record-Journal Expos, of Meriden, are right in the thick of their season and are in the playoff hunt on a four-game winning streak. The Expos are currently 8-5 and hold the third place spot in the Greater Hartford Twilight League standings.

“We’ve lost a couple of close games. In one run games, we’ve lost two or three that we believe we should’ve won,” said team manager Sean Zapatka. “The record doesn’t really reflect the talent or how we’ve been playing but it is what it is and that’s where we are right now. We just have to keep going.”

The Expos returned many players from last year’s second-place showing and have followed up with monster performances this season. The Expos leadoff hitter, Jonathan Walter, is currently hitting .462 and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s with 11 on the season. A,J, Hendrickson shares the RBI lead and has posted a robust .407 batting average.

“One of the things that’s kind of plagued us has been runner’s left on base,” Zapatka said. “We’ve left double digits on base probably a third of the games this season. Timely hitting is something that comes as the year goes on. We could improve in really every section but as of now I feel good about where we are.”

“It’s been a good experience and the team’s pretty good,” said Expos’ first-year player Jonny Doyon. “We get along really well. A lot of us played together in high school and legion ball so it’s got that same kind of feeling. We’re expecting big things this year and playoffs is going to be some good baseball.”

Hendrickson has also been a big part of the team’s pitching staff. Hendrickson has thrown 18 innings and has struck 21 batters, and has a 3.89 ERA. The staff workhorse has been Charlie Hesseltine. In 24 innings pitched, Hesseltine has struck out 31 batters and has a 4.08 ERA for the season.

“I think we’re doing pretty well so far. Team wise, and our lineups been strong every game, we’ve been getting a lot of hits. The pitching’s been pretty good, between me A.J., and Isaiah (Mylers),” Hesseltine said. “We have a decent rotation for the number of pitchers that we have. We just seem to be getting it done. This year we just hit better and we have more fun in the dugout. We’re a bunch of wild guys.”

The reliable pitching and combustible offense make the Expos a dangerous team down the stretch in the GHTL. They showed this combination in their 4-1 victory over Rainbow Graphics on Friday night.

Hesseltine pitched a gem for the Expos, going seven strong innings while only giving up one run. Hesseltine only struck out three batters but showed how effective his command can be as he didn’t walk any hitters.

The Rainbow Graphics lone run in the game came off the bat of Eric Anderson. Anderson hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score Jonathan Frank in the top of the third inning.

Rainbow Graphics also got a strong start from Evan Chamberlain who didn’t allow a run through the first five innings of the game.

In that fifth inning, Dan Milardo led off by reaching base on an error by the third Rainbow Graphics third baseman. Two batters later Walter drew a walk, followed by another walk to Kyle Hartenstein. Hector Gonzalez then hit into a fielder’s choice to score Milardo and tie the game at 1-1. Next batter Mike Gulino, singled up the middle. The uncut grass in the outfield slowed the ball down as it rolled into center field. With the centerfielder playing deep, Walter and Hartenstein both scored to give the Expos a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Expos pushed across and insurance run. Jason Sullivan hit a bullet into left that was again slowed by the grass, allowing Doyon to score from second to make the score, 4-1. That was all Hesseltine needed as he shut down Rainbow Graphics in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.

“I think that the talent that we have this year is comparable to last year. Our pitching staff is deeper this year and we have the same core guys back this season,” said Zapatka. “We have the attitude. We know now after last year’s shortcoming what we have to do once we get there. So I feel confident in our growth.”


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