CHESHIRE — Just one day after a walk-off win to avoid a first-round upset against No. 32 Farmington, top-seeded Cheshire found itself in another Class LL nail-biter.
This time, the Rams were able to secure the win at Burt Leventhal Field before the final inning, beating No. 16 Shelton 4-3 on Thursday afternoon.
Cheshire improved to 24-1 with its 24th straight win. The Rams will host No. 8 Enfield (17-5) in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Shelton’s season ended at 13-9.
Shelton and Cheshire are not strangers. The Southern Connecticut Conference rivals met twice during the regular season. The Rams were victorious in both of those games, 12-0 and 7-3.
The third clash came in Thursday’s second-round state tournament game and, opposite of Wednesday’s opener with Farmington, Cheshire struck first and early with a RBI single by senior tri-captain Matt Downing, which drove in Ian Battipaglia in the bottom of the first.
The Gaels tied the game at one in the top of the third when Hudson Meyer beat out an infield single to plate Dylan Desio, who had tripled.
Looking to regain the lead, senior second baseman Paul Villecco launched a solo home run to right field to put the Rams up, 2-1.
“Yesterday I got a little too aggressive early in the counts, so today I really focused on it and hit the ball deep,” said Villecco. “I worked on getting a good count to get pitches that I can hit.”
Shelton found its footing in the next inning when Alexander Kozlowski hit a two-out, two-run double on the first pitch to take a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, with runners on first and second, Ian Battipaglia doubled deep to left-center, scoring Scailabba and Villecco with game-tying and winning runs.
Cheshire starter Joseph Sabo pitched five innings and gave up six hits, three runs and struck out three before yielding to Ian Battipaglia, who sealed the win. Battipaglia held the Gaels scoreless in the final two innings, allowing only two hits.
“It feels good,” said Battipaglia. “Our pitchers have been pitching great, Rob (Roles) pitched well yesterday and so did Joe today. Giving them backup runs just felt really good.”
Shelton starter Robert Ciccone left with a no-decision after 4 1/3 innings. He allowed three hits and four runs, two of which were unearned.
The Gaels were led offensively by Desio, Meyer and Joseph Romano, who had two hits each.
Ian Battipaglia had another two-hit performance, making him 4-for-6 with three runs and two RBIs to start the postseason.
“He’s been great. He’s been playing awesome at third base and he’s hit some key hits, been in some key situations, leading innings off to get a rally going,” said Cheshire coach Mike Lussier. “Today, he came in relief and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and more. I hate to lose him next year.”
For now, the current season rolls on. On Saturday, at a time to be announced, the Rams will host Enfield, which shut out Central Connecticut Conference rival Newington 4-0 in its second-round game on Thursday.
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