MERIDEN — The Record-Journal Expos cruised to an eighth straight victory on Monday, defeating People’s United Bank 3-1 at Ceppa Field.
The win was the Expos tenth on the season, giving them a two-game lead in the Greater Hartford Twilight League standings. It also avenged their early season loss to People’s United, who currently sits in second place.
“We came out here to win every game,” player manager Charlie Hesseltine said. “[People’s United Bank] did hand us our only loss so we wanted to come out and show that we could beat them.
“We did that today. We started strong early and thankfully our defense held up.”
Hesseltine, who is also the team’s ace, was dominant in this one, pitching a complete game and striking out nine.
“To be honest with you, I struggled with location with everything but my fastball the first inning or two,” Hesseltine said. He walked two batters in the first, but worked out of the jam.
“I finally got command of my curveball,” Hesseltine said. “That really helped me starting off, in 2-0 counts or starting batters off with it. That really helped.”
The curveball was lethal for Hesseltine as five of his nine strikeouts came looking, all on his breaking ball.
The Expos would get Hesseltine all the run support that he needed in the bottom half of the first and it all started with one of three hits by center fielder Jon Walter.
Walter bounced a single up the middle to open the game against People’s United starter Eric Malinowski.
Malinowski would walk Hector Gonzalez to bring third baseman Jason Sullivan to the dish with two on and nobody out.
Sullivan laced a double over the head of Mac Finnegan in center, plating Walter and moving Gonzalez to third.
Catcher AJ Hendrickson would later hit a sacrifice fly to score Gonzalez, giving the Expos an early 2-0 advantage.
“[The early runs] were very important,” Hesseltine said. “It gives me room to breathe right out of the gate. I let the guys get the ball in play and let the defense work and it turned out good.”
Walter and Sullivan would both single in the third, but the Expos stranded them as Malinowksi struck out Hendrickson to end the threat.
However, Walter would add to the Expos’ lead in the fourth, lacing a two-out single to score Will Kszywanos from second.
“It’s good [for Walter to get going],” Hesseltine said. “His legs have been sore lately but he’s still been coming through big with the bat.”
Malinowksi was lifted after five innings of eight hit ball, but he was able to keep the damage to a minimum, despite allowing a baserunner in four of his five innings on the bump.
Meanwhile, Hesseltine was toying with the People’s United Bank lineup, scattering just two hits over the first five frames.
The visitors would pick up a run in the top half of the sixth, on a ground-rule double by Will Woods, but it was all they could muster against Hesseltine.
Hesseltine came into the game 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA for the 10-1 Expos, and only improved on that stat line with the four-hit, one run performance. The Expos have enjoyed fantastic pitching from both him and Hendrickson all season.
Now firmly atop the standings and winners of eight straight the focus and message is simple for the Expos going forward.
“Win the rest of them,” Hesseltine said of the team’s goal for the rest of the season.
The rest of them will continue Tuesday, as the Expos take on Malloves Jewlers (4-10), who they have defeated handily, 11-1 and 7-2 already this season. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. from Ceppa Field in Meriden.