MERIDEN — After postponing due to inclement weather and relocating to Legion Field in Meriden, the CT Elite Baseball Association’s Division 2 play-in tournament was finally played out.
After a remarkable second half to the year, the Wallingford Cardinals’ bid for a spot in the CTEBA state tournament came up just short.
Hamden edged out Wallingford in a closely contested game Wednesday night, 2-1.
Hamden U19 adds this victory to its impressive resume after winning the 2018 Zone 2 Legion title and the 2019 Zone 2 West Division.
Starting pitcher Michael Aceto was the driving force in Hamden’s victory over Wallingford. He was 3-for-4 at the plate and went the distance on the hill, allowing six hits while striking out six and walking one.
Nick Iannone started on the mound for Wallingford, yielding five hits and two walks through five innings in addition to five punchouts before handing the ball to Anthony Cretella, who pitched the final two innings.
Hamden struck first in the top of the second inning when Jeremiah Greenberg drove home Daniel Alissi on a single.
Wallingford was able to answer in the bottom of the fourth when Kyle Simmons roped a single back up the middle to bring home Parker Hunter, who had reached on an error.
The Cardinals later loaded the bases in the fourth, but Hamden kept the damage to a minimum, getting a double play on a fly ball from Nick Velardi that resulted in the lead runner being caught in a run down at home.
Hamden reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth. Jake Jovia doubled off the right-center fence to plate Aceto, who had singled to reach base.
Wallingford second baseman Joe Amarone ended the inning with a beautiful snag to prevent another run.
However, more interest was in the bottom half of the inning when Amarone was at the center of a controversial play at home.
After doubling down the right field line, Amarone attempted to score on Hunter’s single to left, but was called out on a close catch-and-tag at the plate.
Base running loomed over the Cardinals throughout the game and recurred in the final inning when Bill Gorry was thrown out at third trying to stretch a two-out double into a triple.
“The ball bounces funny ways sometimes; this time it wasn’t in our favor,” said Cardinals coach Chris Bishop. “They made the plays. We had some plays not go our way, we didn’t get hits when we needed them and we suffered because of it.
“But we had a great season and I’m very proud of these boys.”
With the win Hamden (13-6) secured Division 2’s second seed in and will join Orange in the state tournament, which opens Friday.
Wallingford ended its season at 14-6. A bright side for the U19 squad is its youth. Only two players — Evan Wilkenson and Cretella —are aging out of the program.
“We have fall coming up for our guys,” said Bishop. “Some of them play other sports and we wish them the best of luck, but the guys playing baseball we’ll have them in the fall and get them ready for next year.
“We have a young team. We only lose two guys off this roster, so we’re excited for what next year brings.”