BASEBALL: Wallingford’s playoff run falls one win short of CCBL title

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CHESHIRE — The Hamden Miners needed two wins over the Wallingford Silver Storm on Saturday and the Miners got them both to earn the program’s first Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League crown.

Hamden, coached by Cheshire’s Tyler Robertson, won the first game 2-1 and then the winner-take-all nightcap 9-6 to celebrate the title on Cheshire Academy’s Alumni Field.

Hamden lefty Pete Gianquinto picked up the save in the first game and then logged the first five innings in Game 2 to lead the Miners to the crown. Hamden got a gem from starter Tre Rivera to win the opener.

“We had two of our pitchers lined up so we felt good about today and they pitched well and we got enough hits to pull it off,” Robertson said. 

Wallingford led 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth of Game 2. Hamden responded with the biggest inning of the day. The Miners sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five times.

The second game started with Hamden taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Hank Bielen cracked an RBI single to left that scored Tanner Santos, who had led off the inning with a single. He went to second on a wild pitch and swiped third to set the table for Bielen.

Wallingford struck back in the second. Jack Clancy started the inning with a walk. Luke Dimauro then reached on an error. Matt Costello followed with a line drive single over shortstop to score Clancy to tie the game, 1-1.  

Gianquinto did well to retire the next three batters and keep the game tied.

Hamden reached the scoring column again in the bottom of the second. Christian Scanlon smacked a double to the fence in right-center and came around to score the go-ahead run on ground ball single by Michael Gajda to left. It was a bang-bang play at the plate. Scanlon used a head-first slilde to get his hand down below the tag.

Wallingford jumped back into the lead with a two-run third inning. John Brucato blooped a leadoff single to right. Two batters later, Josh McDonald crushed a two-run homer over the right-field fence. The dinger gave Wallingford its first lead of the game, 3-2.

Wallingford needed a big throw from left-fielder Jake Ranney to escape the bottom of the fourth with Hamden off the board.

With two on and two outs, Santos hit a ground ball single through the left hole. The ball took a big hop off of the infield lip and landed safely in left field. Ranney did well to fire the ball in to catcher Jack Clancy, who slapped the tag on Santos to end the inning.

Hamden (21-9) went back on top in the fifth after loading the bases with no outs. It started with a bunt single by Paul Vilecco, a walk to Jake Pisano and then Bielen reached on an error to fill the sacks.

Mason Balmer tied the game with a bloop single to right that scored Vilecco to make it 3-3. Pisano later scored on a wild pitch to put Hamden up, 4-3.

Hunter Keller lashed an RBI single to left to greet Wallingford reliever Ryan Camp as Hamden expanded its lead to 5-3. Santos added two more with a two-run single to right to make it 7-3.

Gianquinto was relieved by Jack Jordan in the sixth. Gianquinto went five innings allowing three runs on six hits, two walks and fanned two.

In the top of the sixth, Jake Boucher delivered an RBI single to cut Hamden’s lead to 7-4. Jordan struck out the final two batters to end the threat as the Miners moved within three outs of the title.

Hamden added two more runs in bottom of the sixth as Balmer smacked an RBI single and Scanlon stroked an RBI double as the Miners went up, 9-4.

Henry Rondon tossed the last inning for Hamden. He was welcomed with back-to-back doubles to right field. Luke Dimauro started the frame and Costello’s RBI single made it 9-5. Mark Smith’s single made it 9-6, which turned out to be the final run of the game, which ended on a grounder to short.

“Hamden is the best hitting team,” Wallingford coach Dennis Boucher said. “Our pitching had to be completely on. We couldn’t make any mistakes.”

Hamden won the first game 2-1 behind a brilliant pitching performance by Rivera and a clutch save by Gianquinto. Rivera went the first 6 1/3 innings. He allowed one run on four hits, five walks and fanned nine. Wallingford put the leadoff runner on in the final four innings but was only able to produce one run.

“We left too many runners on base,” Boucher said. “We had a guy on third with less than two outs five of seven innings. We were delivering big hits or sac fly’s. That comes back to haunt you. ...But you have to take your hat off to Hamden. They came out to win last night and never quit against us. That’s a good baseball squad.”

Rivera loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and fanned the final two hitters of the frame to escape the threat. In the seventh, Wallingford still trailed 2-0.

Derek Angell led off the inning with a walk. Luke Dimauro followed with a single. Smith then lined out to second base, and then that was the day for Rivera. Gianquinto was summoned, and Brucato greeted him with an RBI single. Wallingford had first and second with one out. Gianquinto then induced a pair of fly outs to end the game.

Hamden scored both of its runs in the third inning. Gajda led off the inning with a homer to right to put Hamden up 1-0 off of Wallingford ace Alec Erskine. Tanner Santos then walked and went to second on an errant pickoff throw. He came home with an RBI single by Jake Pisano. That run proved to be the difference.

Erskine allowed two runs on three hits, four walks in six innings. He fanned seven in defeat.

Wallingford didn’t get a hit until a Costello leadoff single in the fifth.

Ommy Velez pitched a scoreless seventh for Wallingford.

Hamden knocked off defending champion West Haven to advance to the final and won the first game on Saturday to advance to the winner-take-all game.

“Pete and Tre have been amazing all year,” Robertson said. “They are always willing to pitch. Both did great. It’s awesome to win this title. I'm just so happy for all of the guys.”

Wallingford entered the playoffs on a three game losing streak and lost four out of five. The Silver Storm entered Saturday 3-0 in the postseason.  Jaden Canelli would have drawn the start for Wallingford, but the 6-0 pitcher was out Saturday with an ankle injury.

They knocked off the Brass City in the first round, 7-2, and then defeated the Simsbury SaberCats (5-3) and the Hamden Miners (7-2) to advance to the finals.

Walilngford (14-14-1) was seeking its first CCBL title, and this was the Silver Storm’s second-ever final appearance (2018). The Silver Storm were founded in 2017 with 2-19. The team was 14-7 in 2018; 8-5 in 2019; 7-10 in 2020 and 7-12-1 in 2021.


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