CHESHIRE >> It was more than Cheshire that ended Branford’s hopes of qualifying for the CIAC Class L state tournament.
Mother Nature was a culprit as well.
Thunder in the third inning was responsible for a 20-minute delay and then a downpour in the bottom of the sixth made the field unplayable as Cheshire edged Branford, 4-3, in a Southern Connecticut Conference baseball contest.
With the loss, Branford dropped to 6-13 and was eliminated from state tournament contention.
“Disappointment is a complete understatement,” Branford coach Ed Bethke said. “We can’t control the weather, but leaving our season in question by not finishing the game is one of the worst feelings you can ever have.”
The win was big for the Rams for seeding purposes in the Class LL tournament. They could get as many as two home games if things break right.
“It gets us to 14-6 and if we can get some help, we can get into the eighth spot,” Cheshire coach Bill Mrowka said.
Cheshire came out hot in the first inning with two runs as Dan Schock belted his sixth home run of the season over the center-field fence with two outs.
Branford starter Dan Driscoll then walked Cooper Mrowka and allowed consecutive singles by Ethan Lonardelli and Adam vonFischer and Cheshire took a 2-0 lead.
“We got the first two outs and they are a good hitting team,” Bethke said.
Driscoll settled down after that, allowing only one hit in each of the second and third innings.
Branford came back to take the lead in the top of the fourth inning.
Isaiah Rodriguez singled to center and Tyler Criscuolo walked. After Cheshire pitcher Kyle Waldron balked the runners over to scoring position, Nikko Ligouri singled in a run to make it 2-1. One out later, B.J. Massey singled in a pair of runs to give the Hornets the lead.
“He (Waldron) got tired a little bit, which happens,” Mrowka said. “He got a mental lapse, but then he settled down and got through the fifth inning.”
Cheshire came back to tie it in the bottom of the inning on an error before Branford had a chance to grab the lead back with one out in the top of the fifth when Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and Criscuolo walked. But Waldron got out of the inning without any damage.
“We needed to come up with a clutch hit in the fifth inning,” Bethke said. “But I couldn’t be more proud of them to get three runs to take the lead.”
But Cheshire was able to break the 3-3 deadlock in the bottom of the fifth when Lonardelli and vonFischer drilled back-to-back doubles.
“At one point, I was thinking whether I should bunt because I knew this weather was coming,” Mrowka said in the dugout while the rain poured down. “But I gave Fish a shot and we got back-to-back doubles.”
Lonardelli was able to retire Branford in order in the sixth before the rains came.