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Merchants, Ferguson will settle the score tonight


EAST HARTFORD -- The questionable weather convinced officials to postpone Tuesday night’s Greater Hartford Twilight League tournament championship game between the Meriden Merchants and Ferguson Waterworks at McKenna Field until tonight at 7 p.m.

Meriden (17-13), seeded fifth, won its first three games to claim the winner’s bracket, but No. 3 Ferguson (22-10) came out of the loser’s bracket to beat the Merchants on Monday to force a winner-take-all clash.

“We have short memories,” Meriden co-manager Rob Tencza said after Monday’s game. “We’ve done it before. We’ve been in the same position where we’ve had our backs against the wall. They have to do this twice. They’re tired. We’re more rested. We’re going to come out and be aggressive.”

The Merchants came out of the loser’s bracket to win GHTL titles in 2008 and 2010.

Ferguson, which was no-hit by Cheshire’s Kevin Jefferis of the Connecticut Expos in the first game of the tournament on Aug. 5, emerged from the loser’s bracket with a 1-0 win over second-seeded People’s United Bank in Monday’s 6 p.m. game. The run scored after an infield error and bases-loaded walk.

Ferguson went on to beat Meriden in the nightcap, 1-0, when former Central Connecticut State University first baseman/pitcher Tommy Meade laced a double into the right-field gap, scoring Dan Hickey from first with two out in the sixth against southpaw Ryan DiPietro (Berlin High/ECSU/Kansas City Royals organization).

Jamie Kukucka, a veteran of three seasons in independent professional baseball, went six innings, struck out eight and walked one for Ferguson. Taylor Kosakowski (Berlin High/CCSU) notched the save in both games.

“[Kukucka] made adjustments,” Tencza said. “He didn’t have his best stuff. He came out the first inning throwing pretty hard and then he started mixing in his offspeed stuff because he didn’t have his velocity, but he’s a great pitcher.”

Merchants third baseman Justin Poirier (Maloney/Albertus Magnus) continued his torrid pace at the plate with two hits. He is now 7-for-14 in the tournament. Francisco Ascensio also had two hits to raise his tourney average to .357.

Tencza said “all hands are on deck” to pitch in tonight’s deciding game.

Right-hander Eric Polvani of Wallingford (2-0, 1.05 ERA, 18 Ks in 13 1/3 tournament innings) has four days rest. Meriden’s Charlie Hesseltine is likely available for spot duty as a left-handed specialist.

Ty Donnan, who earned the win in the second game of the tournament against the regular-season champion Vernon Orioles, is also well-rested. Even DiPietro may get another call.

“I’m still hungry, so hopefully I’ll come out and we’ll finish the job,” DiPietro said. “I love being around these guys. I still have the baseball itch.”



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