MIDDLETOWN >> For the second day in a row Cheshire’s American Legion team was unable to hold a late lead and was eliminated from the State Legion tournament 5-3 by Waterbury at Palmer Field Sunday afternoon.
Cheshire (21-7) took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning on RBI singles by Jay Strollo and Connor Davey, but immediately gave it back and then some in the bottom of the inning.
Waterbury struck for four runs in the sixth — all unearned — to move into tonight’s 6:30 game at Palmer Field with Monroe, a 4-0 loser to Stamford in Sunday’s second game.
“I’m not frustrated,” said Cheshire coach Bill Robertson, who said the same thing after Saturday’s extra-inning loss to Stamford, despite watching his team strand 13 base runners. “As I told the kids, even last year when we won the state championship, every season ends with a loss and last year we lost in the regional.”
Waterbury (27-5) got on the board in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Matt Mancini that scored Tyriq Harris, who led off the inning with a walk. Cheshire came back with two runs to take a lead that disappeared in an eyeblink with all of the damage coming after two were out.
After a pop-up, Justin Rogriguez and Elias Torres singled. But Rodriguez was picked off second by catcher Wes Robertson for the second out. By the time Cheshire got the third out, Waterbury had four runs in the bank and a 5-2 lead.
The play that opened the door came when Armondo Torres popped up to catcher Robertson, who was camped under the ball — and dropped it. That would have been the third out.
Torres went on to draw a walk, Harris walked to load the bases, and Nate Zappone (4-for-4) ripped a bases-clearing double down the left field line. Brendan Bessette followed with a single that scored Zappone.
Cheshire crawled back to within a run on a two-out, bases-loaded single by Altrin Kabashi, but Robertson flied to center to leave the bases full.
Cheshire got the first two runners on in the ninth on back-to-back walks, but after failing to get down a bunt, Adam vonFischer lined into a double play and Dave Villeco bounced to second to end it.
Waterbury also left 13 runners on and was hurt on a bizarre play when umpire Dan Boutot called one of their runners out at second — he was running on a 3-2 pitch — when the pitch was called ball four by the home plate umpire. The runner, thinking Boutot was right, started to run to the dugout, was tagged, and was called out a second time by Boutot.
Waterbury tried to protest, but that was thrown out on the spot because it wasn’t filed before a subsequent play.
“That game was torture,” said Waterbury coach Frank Melillo. “There were all kinds of highs and lows. But I have a big-time player in Zappone and my pitcher [Jamie Butler] is a kid I have faith in.”
Butler went eight innings-plus and survived seven hits, six walks and three errors by his teammates to get the win.
Nick Sansone took the loss for Cheshire, despite giving up just one earned run in five and two thirds innings.