MERIDEN — Wednesday evening was taking on nightmarish proportions for the Meriden Post 45 American Legion baseball team.
The most serious matter was that manager Doug Wedge was involved in a motor vehicle accident en route to the game. The Post 45 coaching staff was reasonably sure that it wasn’t serious, but doubts about his well-being shrouded the first pitch.
“People were saying he’s OK,” acting manager Bryan Sheehan said. “I hope it was just a fender-bender. I believe he went to the hospital and he stayed there just to get checked out.”
Meriden was also missing two key starters — catcher Mike Gulino and shortstop Kyle Pelcher — whom Sheehan said were at their respective college orientations,
With Meriden in disarray, Wallingford Post 187 was opportunistic, with one major exception. The visitors put runners on the basepaths with regularity only to strand all but three of them.
The old baseball notion that opportunities squandered can often come back and bite the perpetrators hung in the air, but again there was an exception. Although Wallingford’s southpaw starter Brian DeMaio was dazzling, Sheehan sensed Post 45 would get its chance.
It did. With DeMaio tiring in the sixth, Meriden rallied for three runs to tie the game.
Darkness descended and the contest was suspended. As a result, the teams will play three-plus games in two days. Tonight, there is a doubleheader at Pat Wall Field. On Friday, the teams will complete the suspended game and stage the regularly scheduled game back at Legion Field.
Both pitching staffs will be tested and the Zone 3 neighbors will have seen quite a bit of each other with the season still so young.
“We scrapped back and we were lucky to get a draw, but we want to win,” Sheehan said.
The concept seemed unlikely as the early innings unfolded.
Jon Walter touched DeMaio for a leadoff single, and Meriden (6-7, 6-6 Zone 3) would not get another hit until the sixth.
Walter was picked off. Evan Golebiewski drew a walk to start the third. He was gunned down by reserve catcher Andrew Christofor.
DeMaio (5 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts) thus faced the minimum over the first five innings. Meanwhile, Wallingford was leaving 12 on base, missing opportunities to blow the game open.
“We just couldn’t get a big hit,” Wallingford manager Mike Thomann said. “It’s been a challenge so far, but we’ll get there. [The result] isn’t great, but we didn’t lose either.”
Ben Miller (2-for-3, 2 RBI) ripped a double off Meriden starter A.J. Hendrickson with two out in the first. Wallingford loaded the bases on a hit batsman and walk, but left them loaded.
Post 187 (6-4, 2-3) took a 1-0 lead in the third. Nolan Cloutier singled, stole second, advanced to third when the catcher’s throw skipped into the outfield and scored on Miller’s single.
“We were hitting the ball well, but we couldn’t get a timely hit,” said Miller, a captain at Lyman Hall this spring. “I was seeing the ball well. Both of their pitchers were pretty good, but I was on it. It was my day, but not winning definitely stings because this is a zone game.”
Wallingford added two in the fourth, aided by two Meriden errors, a wild pitch and a balk. Christofor (2-for-2, 2 walks) singled and scored. Brett Bilodeau, who reached on an error, scored on Miller’s sacrifice fly.
“Our backup catcher did a great job,” Thomann said. “Our first catcher [Rob Sprafke] has tendinitis. Andrew has handled the pitchers well and got himself a couple of hits.”
Both the sun and Meriden’s game were fading.
“They were the better team for the first five innings,” Sheehan said. “They put great at-bats together. But we came back the other day from a 7-0 hole against Middletown and won 8-7. The guys really battled. I just wish it was the first through seventh innings instead of just the sixth and seventh.”
DeMaio started the sixth by notching his seventh strikeout, but No. 9 hitter Joe Kane slapped Meriden’s second hit of the game off his glove. After Walter reached on an error, Hector Gonzalez laced a payoff pitch into the left field alley to score both runners.
Reliever Ryan Cappetta had Kyle Hartenstein down 0-2 when the left-handed hitting second baseman ripped a single and Gonzalez raced home to knot the game. Cappetta settled down to retire the last two hitters and force the suspension.