CHESHIRE — The heat was on Saturday as Cheshire battled the scorching temperatures to walk off against Danbury 2-1 in the opening round of the American Legion baseball state tournament.
Ian Battipaglia closed out the top of the seventh inning in relief, then delivered the game-winner in the bottom half with a single to right field as Post 92 won its eighth straight and improved to 22-3.
Cheshire will be right back at Burt Leventhal Field on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to host Stratford, a 6-5 winner over Bethel in Saturday’s other Pod E game.
Cheshire, which just raised its ninth Zone flag in 10 seasons, is looking to make another deep run in the state tournament.
“I definitely feels like when we first got back, me, [Ben] Schena and [Andrew] Declement were just coming back from college and playing with the high school guys, it was just about refamiliarizing, and now it feels like we just picked up right where we left off,” said Ben Shadeck, Cheshire’s starting pitcher on Saturday.
Shadeck hit the 105-pitch limit through 6 and 2/3 innings and gave way to Battipaglia. Shadeck struck out seven, walked four and gave up just three hits.
Justin Hope worked six innings and threw 101 pitches for Danbury. He gave up four hits and struck out six.
“In these conditions, [Shadeck] pitched tremendous and so did their [pitcher],” said Cheshire head coach John Escoto. “And their catcher did an outstanding job and our catcher did an outstanding job.”
“The trick with a day like today is to not let the heat get to you,” Shadeck said. “I’ve heard plenty of stories of people letting the heat get to them and messing with their minds and their game, and if you let that happen you won’t perform at your best.”
Shadeck got Cheshire on the board with an RBI groundout to second base in the bottom of the second inning, scoring Battipaglia.
Danbury responded right away in the top of the third. Cody Waterbury singled to left-center, bringing in Spencer Barnett to tie the game at 1-1.
The game featured several stoppages. Cheshire player Rob Roles and the home plate umpire both left the game due to heat-related issues.
Cheshire threatened to take the lead in the fourth and fifth innings. The home team got two runners aboard with no outs in each frame, but was unable to capitalize.
“We talked to the team about that after the game,” Escoto said. “We didn’t make enough contact with the ball and we just have to at least put the ball in play more.”
Things got extra heated in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Schena was called for interference on a slide into second base that sparked a minor argument before both sides were separated.
“In the end, it really doesn’t matter, as long as we’re walking away with the win,” said Shadeck.
After Battipaglia closed out the top of the seventh, the scene was set for a Cheshire walk-off. Left fielder Ryan Cyr drew a one-out walk and took second after an error on a pickoff attempt.
Battipaglia came to the plate with two outs and drove a single to the right side to plate Cyr from second.
Cyr led Cheshire from the leadoff spot. He reached base three times with two singles and a walk. Declement singled and walked once.
Meriden, Wallingford: After suffering road losses Saturday — Meriden 3-1 at Trumbull, Wallingford 4-0 at Naugatuck — the Zone 2 rivals will meet in a Pod H elimination game Sunday morning at Pat Wall Field at 10 a.m.
Meriden (10-16) jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Trumbull in the top of the first inning on hits by Nick Priebe and Elliott Good, but the Zone 4 Southeast Division champs rallied with three runs in the last of the third.
Priebe and Good finished with two hits apiece. Cam Germe, Chris Mills and Tanner Raymond added singles for Post 45. Michael Gurzenda pitched three scoreless innings of relief.
Meanwhile, in Naugatuck, Wallingford (14-12) was blanked by Nathan Duptula, who went the distance with 103 pitches. Brayden Lyons took the loss for Post 187.