STAMFORD >> It took Cheshire until the last day of the season to win Zone 3. It had a win forfeited in the sectionals because of an ineligible player, then won the series in a decisive Game 3. In the southern division super regional final, needing to top Stamford to prevent a winner-take-all game Wednesday, Cheshire wasn’t going to have its back against the wall again.
Cheshire struck early and snuffed out a late Stamford rally Tuesday in a 7-5 victory at Cubeta Stadium. With the win, Cheshire will represent the southern division in the American Legion state championship against the winner of the Northern super regional, RCP or Tolland, in a best of three series at Cubeta starting Saturday.
“This feels relieving,” said Cheshire’s Pat Downey. “But, we still have work to do.”
Cheshire led 7-2 heading into the seventh before Stamford came roaring back. Cheshire walked four batters, committed an error, nine Stamford players came up to bat and Cheshire’s 7-2 lead was 7-5 after a sac-fly RBI from Johnny Spoto, an RBI single from RJ Moavero and Kevin Stone walked to force in Ryan Lee.
“It’s been a struggle all year long,” said Cheshire coach Bill Robertson. “They’ve been through a lot of stuff on the field, having to win games, so I just looked at them and said, ‘They’re good.’ I was confident.”
Robertson had good reason to be as Cheshire closed it out in the ninth. Second baseman Joe Anderson bobbled a groundball from Randy Polonia, but recovered to throw Polonia out by a step. Then reliever Christian Colp struck out Shawn Urbana looking, and after Stone walked, Colp got Ron Jackson to ground out to Anderson to end the game.
Downey had two RBIs, a triple and scored a run for Cheshire. Jay Schaff also added three RBIs for Cheshire late in the game.
“(Schaff) told me before the game ‘I’m showing up tonight,’ ” Robertson said. “I just told him, ‘thanks for showing up.’ ”
Cheshire gained its early lead in the top of the first inning as Downey laced an RBI single that scored Dan Schock, who singled earlier. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Stamford starter Grant Stone baulked in a run, Mike Purcell, who reached earlier on a walk. Then Schaff drove in Downey and John Koski, who also walked, with an RBI single to left field for a 4-0 lead.
“Putting up four in that big inning takes the pressure of our pitching,” Downey said. “It made a big difference in the game.”
After Stamford scored to make it 4-1, Cheshire added two more in the top of the fifth when Downey tripled home Purcell and scored off an errant throw to third by Jackson, Stamford’s shortstop.
Stamford made it 6-2 and Cheshire responded with another run in the seventh as Schaff singled home Ryan Pierpont, who doubled earlier, for a 7-2 advantage.