MERIDEN — Where were you in 2002?
Charlie Hesseltine was 18, fresh out of Maloney High School and throwing his first pitches for the Greater Harford Twilight Baseball League team that would become the Record-Journal Expos.
Fast forward to Tuesday night.
Now 38, Hesseltine was on the mound for the Expos — better than ever — in making quick work of the South Windsor Phillies.
The veteran southpaw twirled a four-hit complete game in beating the Phillies 3-1 in a GHTBL affair that lasted just over 90 minutes at Ceppa Field.
Hesseltine’s battery mate, A.J. Hendrickson, provided the offensive fireworks. The catcher not only launched a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, he also drove in the tying run with a solid single in the fourth inning.
Hendrickson finished the game 2-for-3, while Jack Rich was 1-for-2 with a double to the right-field fence ahead of Hendrickson’s blast.
Phillies starter Luke Mathewson matched Hesseltine through five innings before allowing Rich’s double and then Hendrickson’s home run. Mathewson had allowed just three hits — all in the fourth inning when the Expos tied the game 1-1.
Hesseltine, toeing the rubber in his 17th season for a Meriden-based squad, finished strong after allowing all four Phillies’ hits over the first three innings. Overall, Hesseltine struck out seven 20-somethings en route to lifting the Expos to 8-5.
The Phillies fell to 3-9.
“At my age, location is the key,” dead-panned Hesseltine, who until this season had played the role of player-coach of the Expos.
“All my pitches were working; and as long as I locate my pitches, they can’t put the barrel on the ball,” Hesseltine added. “If I’m middle-middle, they are hitting it a long way.
“My goal is to miss their barrels and let my defense do the work,” Hesseltine continued. “And, tonight, they did a great job behind me.”
Hesseltine was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a teenager out of high school. He would spend three seasons in the minor leagues before returning to Meriden.
A staple with the Expos, Hesseltine allowed his only run Tuesday in the third inning.
Down 1-0, Hesseltine proceeded to retire the Phillies in order in three of the next four innings. Hesseltine’s shutdown performance allowed the Expos to tie the game in the fourth and then for Henrickson to win things in the sixth inning.
The Phillies’ only threat after scoring came in their own half of the sixth, when they put runners at first and third with two outs.
Hesseltine, however, got some defensive help by fellow Maloney grad Max Giacco, who made a diving catch at second base to end the top of the sixth inning and keep the game tied.
The Expos then proceeded to score the winning runs in the bottom half when Hendrickson turned around a hanging curveball and launched a no-doubter well over the left field fence.
“I was sitting on a curveball up,” said Hendrickson, who took over the coaching duties from Hesseltine this season. “He’d thrown it to me both times I was up, so I was sitting on that and put a good swing on it.”
Back to Hesseltine. Before pitching in the minor leagues, the lefty threw for the Meriden Merchants after his days at Maloney. A mainstay of the Expos since the team’s inception, Hesseltine remains a part of this season’s 1-2 pitching punch with J.D. Tyler.
Sporting a few grey hairs in his beard these days, Hesseltine has combined with Tyler for six of the Expos’ eight wins so far this season.
“It makes it so easy when he’s on,” Hendrickson said of Hesseltine. “When all his pitches are working, he makes things so easy on everybody.
“Today everything was working for him and he was hitting spots,” Hendrickson added. “He was on his game today.”