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AMERICAN LEGION: Meriden rebounds with solid performance, yet it’s Cheshire that rallies to victory

AMERICAN LEGION: Meriden rebounds with solid performance, yet it’s Cheshire that rallies to victory

CHESHIRE — The end result may have been the same, but start to finish Thursday night, how Meriden lost to Cheshire was much more to Post 45 head coach Doug Wedge’s liking.

Meriden scored the first two runs and put the tying run on second base in the seventh inning before falling to undefeated Post 92, 3-2, in a Zone 2 American Legion matchup. In between, Cheshire scored three times to improve to 9-0, highlighted by Ryan Strollo’s home run in the fourth inning.

Meriden, which lost to Cheshire 8-0 on Wednesday, fell to 6-4 on the season.

“It was like two different teams,” Wedge said. “This is how our team normally plays. Last night was such an aberration, it was disgusting. Tonight, these guys battled for seven innings.

“We jumped out, battled, but told them, ‘Two runs isn’t going to do it against (Cheshire).’ Cheshire is awfully tough. But I give my guys credit. They hung in there all the way. They fought all the way. They gave Cheshire a good ball game, and Cheshire gave us a good ballgame.

“That’s how the games with Cheshire and Meriden normally go. Down to the wire like that, so I’m very happy with the effort put forth tonight.”

Still, it wasn’t enough to hand Post 92 its first loss of the season.

In fact, most of the Post 92 players who called Cheshire High School home haven’t lost at Burt Leventhal Field since the first game of the 2019 scholastic season back in April. Cheshire High School lost to Amity in its season opener before reeling off 25 straight wins.

Cheshire’s only other loss in 2019 came at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium in the Class LL state semifinals. Cheshire’s success at home wasn’t lost on winning pitcher Rob Roles, one of the graduated seniors who played at Cheshire High School.

“It’s been a great run,” Roles said, who also played on Cheshire’s 2018 Class LL state championship team. “We have a great group of guys and we are just able to get the right things done during the game and push each other to our limits.”

Roles found himself down 2-0 after Cheshire gave up a pair of unearned runs in the first inning. But the right-hander allowed just three hits after the first inning before exiting in the seventh.

In all, Roles allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one.

Ian Battipaglia finished the game after Roles gave up an infield hit to Jake Baker to lead off the seventh inning. Peyton Thiel, who reached base on a fielder’s choice, was stranded at second after Elliot Good walked, as Battipaglia got Owen Papciak to pop out and ended the game by striking out Brian Carabetta.

Roles’ effort comes 24 hours after Ben Shadeck threw six scoreless innings at Legion Field, striking out 12 Meriden batters.

“To see how Ben can shut them down like that, it just gives me confidence,” Roles said. “I can do this, if I hit my spots. If I can get to the right counts and throw the right pitches, I feel like I can do what he did.”

 After hitting his first American Legion home run in the fourth inning, Strollo drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Paul Villecco scored that run after walking to lead off the inning and moving to second on a balk and to third on a Tanner Raymond wild pitch.

“I came up in a situation where I was leading off and I saw a good pitch,” Strollo said. “I kind of thought it would be a fastball, but it was a case of thinking fastball and adjusting.

“It was cool to hit a home run with a wood bat on our home field. There’s nothing better.”

Strollo’s shot over the right-field fence was Raymond’s only mistake. While Battipaglia followed with a double down the right-field line and scored the tying run on a fielder’s choice by Ryan Cyr, Raymond allowed just four hits over six innings.

“Tanner did a heck of a job on the mound tonight. He really, really battled out there,” Wedge said.

“I missed my spot to one of the better hitters on their team,” said Raymond. “I just want them again.”

Raymond and Post 45 will get another shot at Cheshire on Sunday afternoon at Legion Field when the teams make up Tuesday’s game, which was rained out.

Meriden took its 2-0 lead on back-to-back singles by Papciak and Carabetta. Post 45, however, managed just three more hits the rest of the way.

“This is the way we usually play Meriden,” Cheshire head coach John Escoto said of Post 92’s comeback win.

At 9-0, Cheshire leads Zone 2’s Eastern Division by three games over Branford. And while Escoto said the perfect start is “how we think it’s supposed to be,” he wouldn’t mind a loss or two before the Legion postseason at the end of next month.

“(9-0) is good and bad. In some ways, you don’t mind (losing) to get it out of the way,” Escoto said. “At some point, they put undo pressure on themselves. So we just stress come out every day and play hard. They are talented enough that, hopefully, we’ll come out with a win.”