STAMFORD >> Cheshire coach Bill Robertson saw his second baseman Joe Anderson get taken out. Branford coach Rich Balzano saw a clean play. Anderson said he wasn’t even sure, but the umpire said Anderson was interfered with, which led to a ninth inning double play that killed a potential Branford rally and helped Cheshire pick up a 2-0 super regional victory at Cubeta Stadium Sunday.
“It could’ve been clean,” Anderson said. “But they called it the way they did and I’m happy about it.”
In the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on the corners, no outs and Branford down by two, Kyle Hart hit into what looked like a routine 6-4-3 double play. Tyler Criscuolo, who was on first, slid into Anderson as Mike Funaro, who was on third, scored. Anderson was not able to throw the ball to third and stayed on the ground for several minutes.
“I actually have to go to the hospital to get stitches right now,” Anderson said, as he motioned toward his left leg.
The umpires ruled that Criscuolo popped up while sliding, keeping Anderson from delivering the ball to first. The result of the ruling was a double play and Funaro had to return to third. With two outs, Nick Perrelli flied out to center to end the game.
Balzano said Criscuolo was just following the rules.
“I saw a clean slide into the base,” Balzano said. “That’s what I saw. Unfortunately (Anderson) was on the base and the rule says you’re allowed to slide directly through the base. That’s what our guy did.”
The umpires thought otherwise and now Cheshire is one win away from representing the south in the state championship best-of-three series. Cheshire will play the winner of Branford/Stamford Tuesday at 6:30 back at Cubeta Stadium. Branford will play Stamford Tuesday at 3:30. Branford must win to stave off elimination.
“They’re angry that they lost,” Balzano said. “But, they lost it on their own. They’ll come back and have a good practice tomorrow and come back Tuesday and do the best we can.”
Cheshire did the best it could to keep Branford off the board. Starter Liam Davey and Kyle Waldron worked in and out of jams, as Branford loaded the bases twice. Robertson said pitching coach Kevin Jeffers has prepped them well.
“He has worked with these guys throughout the year,” he said. “It’s not just the pitching standpoint, it’s the mechanics; it’s the diet, the conditioning, it’s everything.”
Cheshire’s pitching held up with limited run support. Cheshire got on the board in the first inning after Dan Schock reached on a throwing error by catcher BJ Massey. He moved to second when Mike Schettino’s pick off throw sailed over first basemen Brandon Wynne’s head and Schock scored on an RBI single from Wes Robertson.
Cheshire added its second run in the top of the ninth off a John Koski bunt single that plated Pat Downey. Branford had its chances to return the favor, but stranded a total of 13 base runners.
And for Robertson, who is from Branford, this is his first time in three tries he has defeated his hometown team. However, all he saw out on the field was another important win.
“Some of the players on (Branford), I’ve played with their dads,” he said. “I can have conversations with them, they’re all good kids. But there’s nothing special about (beating them), we’re just happy with what we did.”