MERIDEN – Ninety feet.
That’s how close East Haven came to force extra innings and possibly extend its American Legion season. But Meriden Post 45 held on to eliminate the 89ers, 1-0, Sunday afternoon at Legion Field in the single elimination second round of the Connecticut American Legion state tournament.
Meriden (24-5) will move on to the best-of-three series at Cheshire beginning Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. The winner of that series will move on to the South Sectional round along with four other teams at Palmer Field in Middletown.
“We’re confident,” winning pitcher Carson Coon said. “We’ve seen Cheshire enough that we can do some damage in the tournament.”
Down 1-0 in the top of the sixth, East Haven shortstop James Zimmerman reached base on an infield hit with one out. He stole second and then went to third on a steal when losing pitcher Gabe Longley walked. Frank Longley then lofted a sacrifice fly to shallow center field. Needing to score to tie it, the 89ers sent Zimmerman on the fly ball. Meriden centerfielder James Morales made a perfect throw on the fly, gunning Zimmerman down at the plate by a few feet.
“We knew we had to be aggressive,” East Haven coach John Longley said. “We had trouble all year putting hits together, but he made a great throw.”
Interestingly enough, Morales is usually Meriden’s backup catcher, but they put him in the outfield Sunday for the first time. He made a great catch going away from the plate earlier in the game on a deep fly ball by Tyler Leone and then made the throw to the plate on the fly to nail Zimmerman.
“That’s Jeff Morales,” said Coon. “He’s out there filling in and he made the play of the year for us out there. It was an amazing throw.”
“What I like about him there is that the ball was up and he stayed back so he’d get momentum coming in on the throw,” Meriden coach Doug Wedge said. “He laid out a nice throw and the catcher was right there.”
The 89ers had another shot in the top of the seventh as Nick Kraszewski singled to center to lead off the frame. After Leone sacrificed him to second, Jake Ferrara singled to center, but Kraszewski was stopped at third. Post 45 reliever Jack Rich then fanned Andrew Luzzi and Dom DelBasso to end the game.
“It’s always disappointing, but one thing I’ll say about my guys is they never gave up,” John Longley said.
The only run of the afternoon came in the bottom of the second inning. Jeff Massicotte singled to center to lead off the inning. Zack Golebiewski laid a bunt down the third base line that Jake Ferrera couldn’t pick up. After Coon sacrificed both runners over to second and third, James Pellegrino’s sacrifice fly brought Massicotte home to make it 1-0.
East Haven finished the season at 14-11.