ORANGE — There were plenty of disappointed faces in the Meriden dugout following Post 45’s 2-1 loss to Orange Post 127 in the second round of the American Legion state tournament on Monday afternoon at Brinley Field.
Despite the narrow defeat, head coach Doug Wedge couldn’t have been prouder of his team.
“I have no complaints about the work we did,” Wedge said. “My only complaint is the damn season is over.”
Either team could have been going home after Monday’s pitcher’s duel.
No. 9 Meriden (24-10) scored its lone run of the contest in the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Jon Walter drew the only walk yielded by Orange (25-7) pitching to start the game. The speedster stole second and third base and with two outs, cleanup hitter Will Kszywanos smacked an RBI single to put the visitors up 1-0.
No. 8 Orange tied the game in the third inning off Meriden starter Dmitri O’Donnell with a RBI base knock by Jake Russo. Sebastian DiMauro started the rally with a walk and stolen base.
Meriden limited the damage when Matt Ronai blasted a double off the left field fence. Brandon Valentin caught the carom, threw it to Hector Gonzalez who relayed it home to catcher Mike Gulino for the tag on Russo that preserved the tie.
O’Donnell induced a inning-ending double play to end a Orange threat in the fourth. But in the fifth, Chris Winkel drove in the final run of the game with a two-out single. He plated DiMauro, who blasted a one-out double just in front of the left field fence.
Orange had one more base runner in the final three innings against O’Donnell and he was promptly picked off in the seventh.
“It doesn’t matter how well I pitched,” O’Donnell said. “We didn’t win the game and that’s all that matters. We had a good year, but this was a tough ending.”
Meanwhile, the home team pitched out of jams in the sixth, seventh and ninth to hang on for the win. Gulino plugged the right-center gap for a one-out double in the sixth, but didn’t advance.
In the Meriden seventh, Dallas Defrancesco began the frame by reaching on an error and pinch runner A.J. Hendrickson swiped second base. With two outs, Cam Fahey hit a ball up the middle and beat out the shortstops throw for an infield hit. Hendrickson never stopped running but Orange first baseman Winkel’s throw beat him home.
“My third base coach thought the ball got through and he sent him home,” Wedge said. “If it did get through it would have been an easy run. This was just a tough, good ball game.”
Meriden was set up in the ninth when Kszywanos singled to right and advanced on a throwing error from the outfield. Dan Berger ran for Kszywanos and Orange pulled starter Ross Weiner after eight-plus innings for another flame-thrower in DiMauro.
Kyle Hartenstein laid down a bunt towards third, DiMauro lunged for it and threw to third to cut down Berger.
“The ball was by him and he stabbed it,” Wedge said. “That was an athletic play and that’s what the game is about. You have to tip your cap. The kid made a nice play.”
DiMauro recorded the final two outs for the save to close the door on Meriden’s season.
Weiner earned the win. He scattered five hits and fanned eight.
“We had a really good season,” Gulino said. “We had fun. That’s the most important part. Everyone got better as the season went on. There were probably a few things we could have done differently but we can’t do anything about it now.”