BASEBALL: Record-Journal Expos enter the week 14-4 and in second place

BASEBALL: Record-Journal Expos enter the week 14-4 and in second place

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MERIDEN – Charlie Hesseltine has been in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for nearly 20 years and he said the 2022 Record-Journal Expos are among the most talented teams he’s been on.

The Expos enter the week 14-4 and are solidly in second place in the GHTBL standings. The East Hartford Jets are 16-4 and sit in first place. However, the Expos are 3-0 against the front-running Jets this summer.

The Expos have been particularly strong at home at Ceppa Field where they are 8-1 on the season and will host Rainbow Graphics in their next game at Ceppa on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

The regular season wraps up in less than two weeks on Aug. 4 and then the Record-Journal Expos will be playing for its first league title since 2014.

The double-elimination championship tournament will be played at Middletown’s Palmer Field and East Hartford’s McKenna Field.

“Everyone is showing up every night to play and they are playing hard,” Hesseltine said. “Our offense has been good. We’ve been scoring quite a few runs every game. It makes it more comfortable for our pitchers to let the defense do their work. But our offense has been carrying us.”

The Expos’ top hitters so far this season are A.J. Hendrickson (.469, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 14 runs, 8 doubles) and Will Kszywanos (.298, 13 RBI, 14 runs).

Hendrickson has been a dual threat both in the batters box and on the mound.

“Since the first game, A.J. has been red hot at the plate,” Hesseltine said. “He had nine RBI after the first two games and has never looked back. When he gets hits, there are usually guys on base.”

Hendrickson has been Meriden’s workhorse on the mound this season. He entered the week with a 4-2 record with a 3.02 ERA, six complete games and two shutouts.

“He’s a gamer and doesn’t like to come out when he pitches,” Hesseltine said. “He likes to battle throughout the whole game.”

 Pitcher Justin Marks has been brilliant for Meriden. He entered the week with 4-0 ERA with a 0.28 ERA. He’s fanned 53 in 25 innings. He’s only surrendered on earned run all season.

“He’s a newer kid we picked up last year who is newer to pitching,” Hesseltine said. “He has great velocity and when he gets out in front – he’s has one of the best sliders I’ve seen. Last year I saw a lot of potential with him. He had a lot of walks last year but is much better this year. He’s striking people out and not many have hit him hard this year.”

Jeff Massicotte tossed a no-hitter in Meriden’s 8-0 on Friday over Wallingford. It was his first start of the season. Hesseltine, a player/manager has logged three starts this summer with a 2-1 record and all three were complete games. The lefty has a 2.86 and fanned 31 and walked just five.

R-J’s infield lines up with Kszywanos at first, Javon Malone at second, Sebby Grignano at short, Jason Sullivan at third and Hendrickson behind the plate. 

The Expos’ regular outfielders are Jonathan Walter, Andrew McCarty, Shaun Remillard and Nhasean Murphy.

Hesseltine said the lineup 1-through-9 has been strong and he’s confident up and down the roster.

“It’s probably one of the best teams I’ve played on in all of my years in this league,” Hesseltine said. “I really think we can win it all. I’ve said that the last few years but we’ve battled this year. We’ve beaten great teams. We split with Vernon and those are always tough games. I think we can make it happen in the playoffs. We step up when we play top teams.”