CHESHIRE >> Cheshire starter Kyle Waldron didn’t have his best stuff. Pitches drifted out of the strike zone, he walked five and plunked a batter.
However, when it mattered most, Waldron was tough as nails.
Hamden couldn’t find a rhythm at the plate, in the field or on the mound and Cheshire took Game 1 of the American Legion state tournament 13-2 via mercy rule in seven innings.
“Kids that want to compete can compete,” said Cheshire coach Bill Robertson. “To have the ability to be able to, in big spots, execute their pitches. He’s that type of pitcher.”
Cheshire faces Hamden in Game 2 of the best-of-three series today to determine which team will advance to the semifinals at Palmer Field in Middletown. Robertson said his team has to stay the course if it wants to defend its state title.
Facing elimination, Hamden will need to steal two on the road if it has hopes of moving on to Middletown. Hamden coach Ray Guarino said his team will need to be better.
Hamden did more than enough to get in its own way, committing five errors, allowing eight walks (seven by starter Tyler Mitchell) and letting a routine fly ball land harmlessly between the shortstop, second baseman and center fielder that enabled Cooper Mrowka to score.
Due to Hamden’s follies, Cheshire held a 4-0 advantage in the second inning with only one base hit, that blooper from Pat Downey.
“We picked a bad time to play our worst baseball,” Guarino said. “That was the worst game we’ve played all year.”
Meanwhile, Waldron continued to work in and out of jams. In the fifth inning, with Cheshire comfortably in front 8-1, he hit Khaleb Cyril and walked Avery Shugrue with no outs. He bounced back by striking out Matt Barnett, Eli Camner and Sam Kirschenbaum to end the threat.
“I was just thinking about what my coaches have been preaching to me all year,” Waldron said. “Just staying back, really getting on top of the ball to help me get it lower in the zone.”
And wasting an opportunity to chip away at Cheshire’s lead was the low point for Hamden.
“That’s a big inning,” Guarino said. “We’ve got to get a couple there. Credit to those guys, they didn’t stop at all.”
But Hamden did have other chances, loading up the bases twice. However, Post 88 could only muster one run in both bases-loaded opportunities. Still, Robertson knows what transpired on the field Wednesday does not matter in Game 2.
“I told the kids it’s just one and you have to win another,” he said. “It starts zero to zero.”
And Hamden will be ready.
“That’s the good thing about baseball,” Guarino said. “We can go back out there (today) and try to erase our poor performance. We’ll definitely be better.”
CHESHIRE 13, HAMDEN 2
Hamden 000 101 0 — 2 3 5
Cheshire 220 405 X — 13 8 2
Tyler Mitchell, Jason Rodriguez (5) and Chris Colon; Kyle Waldron, Joe Anderson (7) and Wes Robertson.
WP: Waldron; LP: Mitchell; 2B: Adam Von Fischer (C), Jason Strollo (C).