Months ago, the Cheshire High baseball team was eliminated in the Class LL semifinals. Now many of the members of that team will look for a second chance to be crowned state champions in the American Legion state tournament.
Cheshire, a favorite, took its state best 22-3 record into Pod E play against Danbury in a grueling opening game.
The contest, which was forced into two delays due to umpires and players falling ill from the heat, ended in walk-off fashion in favor of Cheshire when Ian Battipaglia singled with two outs in the bottom of the 7th to drive in Ryan Cyr for a 2-1 win.
Battipaglia also earned the win on the mound in relief, recording just one out. Starting pitcher Ben Shadeck fired 62/3 innings of one-run ball on just three hits with seven strikeouts.
Cheshire pushed the first run of the game across in the second inning after back-to-back singles by Battipaglia and Robert Roles. A successful sacrifice bunt put both runners in scoring position and a Shadeck ground out to second base scored Battipaglia.
Danbury starting pitcher Justin Hope was able to strike out the next batter to strand a runner at third to limit the damage.
In the top of the third inning, Shadeck surrendered his first hit, a lead-off single by Spencer Barnett which turned into a run when Cody Waterbury delivered a two-out RBI single.
Shadeck made quick work of the Danbury lineup over the next two innings, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out the last four of them as he pounded his chest and vacated the mound.
Tensions seemed to rise with the heat in the fifth inning. Cheshire’s first two batters of the inning reached via singles. With no outs, Danbury was able to turn a double play after a takeout slide of the second baseman was called for interference, clearing the benches as players began to chirp each other. Once the dust settled, Hope was able to escape the inning on a fly out to right field for the third out.
Danbury threatened in the sixth inning with two outs with a double and a walk to put the go ahead run in scoring position but Shadeck was able to escape the inning on a line-out to second base.
With the game still tied at one, Danbury opened up the 7th inning with a walk. The runner advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and Shadeck recorded a strikeout to the batter he faced.
With two outs and the go-ahead run on second base, Battipaglia came in to relief. He surrendered a walk on a 3-2 count before inducing a ground ball to the shortstop for an easy unassisted force out at second base.
Cheshire began to threaten with one away in the bottom of the 7th with a walk by Cyr, who was able to advance to second base on a botched pickoff attempt. After a fly out to right field and a walk, Cheshire had the winning run at second base with two outs.
Battipaglia stepped into the box in the same situation he had pitched his way out of just minutes before, only this time as the batter. Once again, he did his job as he smoked a ground ball that the second baseman was unable to make a play on, scoring the runner from second and earning his team the walk-off victory.
“It is not unusual for these guys to win games in crunch time,” Cheshire Head Coach John Escoto said. “They are a gritty group, they stay focused and they always battle until the end.”
Tomorrow Cheshire will face the winner of Bethel and Stratford and Danbury will square up with the loser.