MERIDEN – With inclement weather looming over once again, Meriden came into the game with a feeling of déjà vu. However, this time the outcome would differ as Post 45 struggled to keep up with big bats of NCL leading to a 7-2 Connecticut American Legion Baseball Regional Qualifying tournament loss at Legion Field on Thursday,
NCL is comprised of Windsor Locks, Windsor, Suffield and Bloomfield. Not able to overcome their defensive woes, Meriden found themselves in the hole early.
After a leadoff single from NCL’s Tyler Ruff, Ben Tillotson reached base on a throwing error. The next at-bat, Ryan Barthel roped an RBI single to left field to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.
NCL added to their lead the next inning as Ruff doubled deep to center, just past the outstretched glove of Evan Avery, to bring Isaac Rosario home after reaching base on a double, as well.
Down two, Meriden wasn’t willing to go down without a fight.
After loading the bases on three straight singles in the bottom of the third, Avery brought in a run with a fielder’s choice.
The top of fourth played a pivotal role in the contest for NCL. Barthel was able to plate Tillotson on a single to left after Tillotson drew a walk and advanced on an error.
Manny Flores later scored on a passed ball after he also drew a walk. Erik Romero, who laid down a successful bunt, crossed home after Julian Rivera singled on a deflection off of Max Giacco to take a 5-1 lead.
Meriden attempted to launch a comeback in the bottom of the fifth when Andrew McCarty legged out a triple to deep right to plate Max Giacco.
NCL continued to add to their lead when Ruff reached base on a throwing error allowing Romero, who singled and then stole second, to cross home in the sixth.
A fielder’s choice hit by Flores would be enough to bring in the final run of the game, scored by Tillotson who once again reached on an error.
“We had a big win over Greenwich and it was sort of like a hangover effect, we just didn’t execute,” Meriden coach Doug Wedge said. “We had guys on base early but we just couldn’t get them in.”
After closing out last night’s contest, Max Giacco started on the mound for Meriden. Giacco lasted five innings while striking out four, walking three and allowing eight hits.
Connor Bennett took over the mound in relief allowing only one hit while striking out one and walking one.
“Bright spot was Conner Bennett, he pitched very little this year but came out there and threw a couple nice innings,” Wedge said. “I’m very happy with that.”
Despite the loss, Post 45 made it clear this wouldn’t be the last of them. Hungry for vengeance Meriden will head to Muzzy Field at 4 p.m. on Friday for a rematch with Fairfield. Meriden defeated Fairfield on Monday, 1-0.
The winner will play have a shot at the championship against the winner of NCL or Greenwich, who will play in the other semifinal on Thursday. The final will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday at Muzzy Field.
“Tomorrow is either win or go home. These guys want it, they said they want to go to Massachusetts,” Wedge said. “Every game is sudden death now.”