AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL: Wicked hot right out of the postseason gate

AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL: Wicked hot right out of the postseason gate

MERIDEN — It’s no metaphorical question. It’s no cliche.

Who can stand the heat is a very real issue as the 2019 Connecticut American Legion baseball tournament gets under way Saturday.

With temperatures forecasted to hit 100 and high humidity expected to make it seem even hotter, players will be dealing with heat that goes beyond the normal pressures of a postseason event and what opposition pitchers throw.

Folks in charge of Connecticut Legion ball were accounting for that as they finalized tournament logistics Thursday night and Friday.

“We have allowed teams to adjust times due to the heat forecast,” remarked state chairman David Greenleaf. “Beyond that, we rely on the teams to make sure their athletes are hydrated and take whatever precautions they feel are necessary.”

The majority of Saturday’s 16 opening games have moved from the standard 1 p.m. first pitch to morning starts. That includes home games for Zone division champs Southington and Cheshire.

Wallingford and Meriden, who finished behind Cheshire in Zone 2’s Eastern Division, are also in the state fold. Both of those teams play on the road Saturday. Here’s the day’s full schedule for the locals:

■Meriden at Trumbull (at Trumbull HS), 10 a.m.■Danbury at Cheshire (at Cheshire HS), 10 a.m.■Niantic at Southington (at Southington HS), 11 a.m.■Wallingford at Naugatuck (at Naugatuck HS), 11 a.m.

Win or lose, all four area teams play again Sunday. The opening segment of the state tourney is double-elimination, with the 32 qualifiers divided into eight four-team “pods.”

The eight winners of those pods advance to the Super Regionals that run July 27-31, with Ceppa Field hosting the South Regional for a second straight year and South Windsor hosting the North.

Ceppa Field will also play host to the state finals the weekend of Aug. 2-3.

A year ago, Southington and Cheshire collided in the South Super Regional at Ceppa. If there’s a rematch between the border rivals this year, it’ll be in the state finals. Defending state champ Southington is in the North Region, while Cheshire remains in the South with Wallingford and Meriden.

Wallingford (14-11) and Meriden (11-16) are in the same grouping, Pod H. Wallingford earned the No. 4 seed out of Zone 3, while Meriden got in as a tournament host.

Meriden has an opportunity today to show it can do more than host. In drawing Trumbull (18-6), Post 45 goes up against the Southeast Division champion from Zone 4.

Meriden closed its regular season with a Zone 3 split with Branford on Thursday evening at Legion Field. The visitors took the opener 10-0. The home team took the night cap 9-5.

Jake Baker (.350), Peyton Thiel (.328) and Owen Papciak (.299) have been the top hitters for Meriden. Elliott Good (.281) has a team-high nine extra-base hits and 13 RBI.

Tanner Raymond (3-1, 1.21 ERA) and Edisson Ortiz (3-2, 2.33) are the leading pitchers. Sean Dupuis is 2-4, yet sports an ERA of 2.27.

Wallingford, rained out against Cheshire on Wednesday night and again on Thursday, never got a chance to avenge is frustrating 4-3 loss at Burt Leventhal Field on Tuesday night, a game in which Post 187 left 13 runners on base.

The Cardinals go into their postseason opener against Naugatuck with a deep pitching staff that features Caden Cloutier, Tony Cretella, Justin Hacket, Brayden Lyons, Tyler Lyons, Nick Iannone and Kevin Vining.

Cheshire, meanwhile, goes in with the state’s best overall record at 22-3. Stamford (21-3) and Hamden (20-6) were the only other Connecticut Legion teams to reach the 20-win plateau during the regular season.

As Zone 3’s Eastern Division champ, Cheshire earned the top seed in Pod E. With a win today over Danbury (12-12), Post 92 will host the winner of Stratford (12-12) and Zone 5 South champ Bethel (14-10 on Sunday. (Cheshire, for that matter, will also be at home if it loses.)

Southington, the defending state champ, is in Pod C with Zone 1 rival Berlin (13-11), Zone 6 Niantic (14-10) and Zone 3 South champ RCP (14-8). 

While Southington finished the regular season at 17-7 and won Zone 1’s Western Division by two games ahead of West Hartford, the reigning state champ is not the top seed in Pod C. That’s RCP, which would host Southington in Cromwell on Sunday if both teams win today.