ORANGE — There is no margin for error in the CT Elite Baseball Association U19 state tournament. Only eight teams made it. Format is single elimination.
For Meriden, the area’s lone qualifier, the bell tolled in the late innings Friday against Orange when a throwing error on a double steal plated two runs that snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth and earned the home team a 3-1 victory at Brinley Field.
Orange, the No. 2 seed, improved to 15-4 and advances to Saturday’s semifinals. Meriden, the No. 7 seed, saw its season close at 15-7.
“I’m happy with how the season turned out — sorry that it’s over, but where we were in March, when we didn’t expect to have anything, to now, I’m happy with how we
performed,” said Meriden coach Doug Wedge, who was among the first to suggest an independent league when American Legion canceled its season. “We could’ve done some things better, but we represented ourselves well.”
Down 1-0 for most of the game, Meriden forged a 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth on Kam Hartenstein’s RBI double that scored Kyle Parmelee, who had walked.
Orange responded in the home half with quintessential small ball. Luke Hauser reached on an infield single and was bunted to second by Ryan Gozzo.
With first base open, Meriden intentionally walked Sebastian Formica, who had doubled home the game’s first run back in the first inning.
Hauser and Formica took off in tandem and came across when the throw sailed into left field.
Meriden did get a runner aboard in the seventh. Sean Dupuis singled with two outs only to be left stranded.
“Hate to see the season end, but my guys didn’t quit,” said Wedge. “They played hard the whole game. They made a couple of mistakes, but they competed and played hard and made some nice plays.”
Friday’s game featured a stellar pitching matchup between Meriden’s John Vumback and Orange’s Will Rotko. Both went the distance. Vumback allowed one earned run, three hits and two walks while striking out four. Rotko yielded four hits and one walk while fanning five.
With their efficiency, the game took only a hour and a half to play. A fast one — just too fast a trip to states for a Meriden team that had won eight of its last 10 games.
“I was very impressed with how this team came together,” said Wedge. “They became a unit and learned how to pick each other up.”
Dupuis is the only current player who will be aging out of the Meriden program, but the possibility of players making to switch to collegiate leagues always poses a threat. However, with a majority of the players returning for another year, Meriden looks to bounce back with another strong season in 2021, when American Legion baseball is expected to return.