AMERICAN LEGION: Meriden fends off Wallingford, evens season-opening series

AMERICAN LEGION: Meriden fends off Wallingford, evens season-opening series

MERIDEN — No lead is ever safe in sports, and that is especially true in baseball.

After Meriden jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on Wallingford in the second inning of Tuesday night’s Zone 2 American Legion matchup at Legion Field, Wallingford began to chip away. 

Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Meriden got the insurance run it needed to salt away a 4-3 victory.

Cameron Germe scored what proved to be the winning run leading off the sixth with a liner to left field.

When a pick-off attempt by the catcher sailed over the first baseman’s head, Germe advanced to second, then took third when Sean Dupuis grounded out to second. 

The table was set for Ricky D’Aniello. In a two-strike hole, D’Aniello ripped a base hit to right field to extend the lead to 4-2.

“It was a big hit,” Meriden Post 45 coach Doug Wedge said. “We had the safety squeeze on the pitch before that, but we didn’t execute it and — boom — next pitch he hits a rope to right field. Big. It gave us a nice cushion.”

Owen Papciak was called on to close out the game in relief of Edisson Ortiz, who pitched six innings and surrendered two runs.

Papciak had to face the top of Wallingford’s lineup, which proved to be no easy task. He got the first batter, Joe Amarone, to ground out 1-3. Justin Hackett followed with a walk, however, and a stolen base.

Tyler Lyons was then walked and the tying runs were on the base paths.

Russell Edeen shot the baseball to right field, but it hung in the air just long enough for the second out.

However, Wallingford’s threat was not over as Papciak walked the next batter to load the bases for Caden Cloutier. 

Papciak threw a wild pitch over the catcher, which brought in Hackett to make the game 4-3. But, Cloutier grounded out to second base to end the game.

“We had some chances, but did not capitalize,” Wallingford Post 187 coach John Amendola said. “I think that was a big difference in the game. The couple of chances they had, they capitalized and scored. We kept having chances, but we just couldn’t get the big hit. Couldn’t come through with it.”

Braydon Lyons was the starting pitcher for Wallingford, but shaky defense and timely hitting made it hard for him to get into a rhythm.

Nick Iannone was able to limit the damage after he entered the game in relief in the third inning. The right hander surrendered one run and struck out three batters over four innings of work.

“I thought Nick Iannone did a really good job coming in,” Amendola said. “And, to be honest, not to put down what Meriden did, but we gave ’em three runs to start the game. You can't make errors in Legion baseball. You got to make plays and not give away runs.”

Wallingford finished the game with two errors including a dropped pop-up in the second inning, which led to two runs.

However, Meriden had a couple of errors as well. Wedge said some of the misplays caused Ortiz to throw more pitches.

Overall, Wedge said he was happy with his pitcher’s performance and the team as a whole.

“The first inning, Ortiz was a little shaky and then he settled in,” Wedge said. “He became very economical, throwing a couple of four- or five-pitch innings. The defense kind of sabotaged him as he went into the game and he had to throw more pitches. For his first start, he did fine, just fine. I am very happy with it.”

Wallingford won Game 1 of this season-opening series on the weekend. The two teams square off in the rubber match at Legion Field on Thursday at 5:45 p.m.