CROMWELL — The Post 187 Wallingford Cardinals fell to RCP 1-0 in walk-off fashion Monday evening in the first round of the American Legion regional qualifying tournament.
“It’s tough anytime you lose on a walk off,” Cardinals’ skipper Chris Bishop said. “But you know what? I’m proud of our guys.”
After Wallingford went down in order to start the seventh inning, RCP’s Justin Fraleigh ripped a double into the gap off Todd Grammatico to start the bottom half of the frame. Wallingford nearly got Fraleigh out at third when Brant Collins sacrificed himself, but both runners were safe.
Justin Hackett secured a liner for the first out before Bishop had Elias Deleon — the leadoff hitter who reached in all three trips to the plate — intentionally walked.
Ryan Boyle broke his 0-for-3 day when he lined the first pitch he saw over Aidan Weir’s head in left field to score the only run of the game.
“That’s a do-or-die play,” Bishop said of Weir, who had to play shallow if a throw needed to be made to the plate.
“Hats off to them,” Bishop added. “They played an excellent game.”
RCP handed the ball to Ryan Robb and he never let go. The lean, quick-working right-hander went the distance on 84 pitches. He struck out seven Cardinals, walked one and surrendered two hits — singles to Joe Amarone and Nick Velardi in the fourth inning.
Not a single Cardinal advanced further than second base.
“We hit a lot of hard balls; just happened to be right at people,” Bishop said.
Though the bats were quiet, the gloves were poppin’ as Wallingford played stout defense behind Grammatico and starting pitcher Kyle Simmons.
“Defense was great,” Bishop said. “Can’t say enough about our guys.”
Bill Gorry threw out Deleon trying to steal in the first inning after he worked a lead-off walk.
In the second, the Cardinals caught Tino Gagliardi in a rundown between third base and home before tagging him out at third.
Justin Lucibello doubled up a runner at second after making a spectacular diving catch on a bunt in the fourth.
Weir threw out Deleon at second when he tried to stretch a single into a double in the fifth.
Ethan Rosenthal — who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth — caught the final out of the frame on a diving effort.
None of it was enough to overcome Robb’s effort on the mound. He out-lasted Simmons, who tossed 63 pitches in 3-plus innings of work, and out-dueled Grammatico, who gave up four hits, one walk and struck out a pair in four innings of relief.
“Just couldn’t get his breaking ball over,” Bishop said of Simmons.
The Cardinals get no breaks as they’re back at it again Tuesday night. They’ll make the trek to Madison, which was upset Monday by NCL, 3-1
Bishop knows every game has the potential to be this competitive and this tight.
“It’s a different brand of baseball at this level.”