MERIDEN — In the words of Meriden U19 baseball coach Doug Wedge, this was a classic Meriden-Cheshire rivalry game, another dogfight until the very end.
The latest go-round went extra innings, with Meriden walking off with a 2-1 CT Elite Baseball Association victory on Thursday night at Legion Field when Evan Avery squeezed home Andrew McCarthy in the bottom of the eighth.
McCarty doubled down the right field line to set the stage for the walk-off.
“I was just thinking about getting on base to put my team in a position to win,” said McCarty. “I was definitely confident that we’d get that bunt down.”
Meriden, now 2-0, and Cheshire (3-2) are not strangers. The neighboring towns, along with Berlin, are Zone 3 American Legion rivals who were kept together in the same division when the CTEBA was formed to fill the void for the cancelled 2020 Legion season.
Meriden will play Berlin (6-1) in a doubleheader at Sage Park on Sunday starting at 11 a.m.
“We can definitely stand our own against those two, as you can see now,” said McCarty. “I feel like we’re going to come out swinging in the end.”
On Thursday, runs came at a premium as pitching and defense dominated.
Meriden starter Sean Dupuis went six and one-thirds innings, allowing five walks and two hits while striking out four.
Dupuis was relieved by Avery, who wound up with the pitching win when he laid down the game-winning bunt.
Cheshire pitcher Matt Cahill struck out eight batters through three innings.
Defensively, Meriden outfielder Ethan Brazel made a pair of sensational catches. A strong play by Meriden third baseman Jack Clancy on a slow bouncer prevented Cheshire from taking a lead in the top of the eighth.
Both teams scored in the third inning. Cheshire’s Ryan Orozco came across on a Meriden error. In the home half, McCarty reached base on an error and eventually scored on a passed ball.
McCarty and Owen Papciak led Meriden’s offense, combining for three hits.
“They didn’t quit; they battled through,” said Wedge. “They stayed there and they kept grinding.”
After traveling to Sage Park on Sunday, Meriden will return to Legion Field to host Avon on Monday and Newington on Tuesday. Both games are at 5:45 p.m.
Cheshire plays a pair with Bristol on Sunday afternoon at Muzzy Field, then hosts Simsbury on Tuesday and Berlin on Wednesday. Both of those games will be at Bartlem Park at 5:45 p.m.