MERIDEN — The final question of the 2019 Meriden City Series has been answered.
South Meriden reigns supreme after routing Ed Walsh 20-1 in a winner-take-all finale on Thursday evening at Habershon Park.
It was, quite simply, a remarkable display of power. South Meriden cranked out 13 hits, including three home runs, and put the game away with a 14-run fourth inning in which 19 batters went to the plate.
Once Sean Nowicky closed out his three-hitter in the top of the fifth, the game was over via the mercy rule.
“I was confident yesterday with our bats,” remarked South Meriden head coach Gabe Zamorano, referring to Wednesday’s 9-7 victory over Ed Walsh that forced Thursday’s finale. “We knew the pitching wasn’t the caliber as it was yesterday. That’s what I knew we were going to do: the hitting. It worked out very well with those bats.”
David Stimpson (solo), Andres Gutierrez (solo) and Nowicky (3-run) had the dingers for South Meriden.
What’s more, those three batters, in combination with Jesus Arraez, gave South Meriden a 9-for-12 punch in slots 2-5 in the order.
They also drove in a combined 12 runs, with Nowicky following up on his seven-RBI night on Wednesday with six more on Thursday.
“The way the lineup was set up was just the power at the top, with one protecting the other ... so you’re going to get hurt if you walk them,” Zamorano said. “You could see: They hit the ball. It was tough to get us out.”
“They were just hitting the gaps, hitting all the holes,” said Mike Duffy, head coach of Ed Walsh. “Props to them. They have a lot of good players on that team. We do, too. Those balls just weren’t hit at our players.”
It was a tough end for Ed Walsh, which opened the tournament beating defending City Series champ Jack Barry 9-5 and then holding off South Meriden 5-4 in the first of what proved to be three meetings in six days between the two teams.
Ed Walsh, the youngest team in the tournament, also did a good job adjusting to the bigger playing field of South Meriden, which is a Cal Ripken league.
In turn, South Meriden had no problems adapting to the Little League rules of Ed Walsh and Jack Barry regarding bats and bases.
Bottom line: Meriden completed its second City Series after a decade of dormancy.
If the City Series continues next year, it will have a different look, as the executive boards of both Jack Barry and Ed Walsh have voted to combine into one league. Official approval from District 5 is still pending.
“Maybe we can do age groups, maybe have 11’s and 12’s,” Zamorano speculated, echoing a potential City Series concept voiced by Duffy. “It’s a lot of work. Every year the rules change.”
What didn’t change Thursday was the torrid hitting South Meriden had displayed the night before. While each team used a plethora of pitchers on Wednesday, each had a good arm to roll out on Thursday. Zach Burdacki drew the start for Ed Walsh against Nowicky.
Both pitchers were crisp early, even as each team put a two-out runner aboard in the first inning. Burdacki reached on an error in the top half and stole his way to third, while Arraez tagged a double off him into the right-center gap in the bottom half.
Both were stranded.
Same deal for Ed Walsh in the second inning. Adrian Rodriguez led off with an infield single into no-man’s land between the mound and first base, stole second and worked his way over to third when Dominick Gionfriddo fisted an inside pitch into right field.
But Gionfriddo never reached. South Meriden right fielder Braylin Silverio charged and threw him out at first.
Big play: Nowicky struck out the next batter and another Ed Walsh runner was stranded at third.
The squanders proved costly. Gutierrez tagged his solo blast into the pavilion beyond the left field fence in the bottom of the second. Stimpson followed with his poke over the Dick’s Sporting Goods sign in center an inning later.
And that was just the start of the South Meriden third.
Arraez walked, stole a couple bases and scored on an infield dribbler. Gutierrez stayed hot, lacing a ground-rule double to left. Silverio brought in a run with a grounder to the right side. Ashley Stimpson went opposite field with a RBI single to left and later scored on an error while stealing third base.
Add it up and South Meriden had five runs for the frame and a 6-0 lead.
Burdacki took an immediate bite out of that in the top of the fourth, rifling a solo home run to dead center. It was a rope, staying about six feet off the ground the whole way and getting out in a hurry.
Nowicky, though, was unfazed. He struck out the next two batters and induced a pop to Caleb Datchuck at second and the Ed Walsh fourth was in the books.
South Meriden, meanwhile, filled a fresh page in the bottom half to put the game into mercy-rule territory. Arraez singled in a run, Nowicky doubled home two. Gutierrez tagged a ball past third that plated another.
Noah Zamorano and David Stimpson drove two more nails apiece with singles up the middle.
Carter Modica joined the parade with a single. Nowicky had the crowning blow with his three-run homer to center.
It added up to a 14-run knockout. Ed Walsh got two runners on in the top of the fifth, but nothing more. It was over, at least for now.
“Get rid of that score. I did not see people hanging their heads, like you’d expect at this age,” said Duffy. “These kids held their heads high; they kept playing. Even in that last inning, we got two kids on. They kept swinging; they kept battling. I’m very proud of this team.”