MERIDEN—Southington third baseman Jeremy Mercier said there is no secret to his success so far in the state tournament other than just staying calm in the biggest moments.
After he clubbed an extra-inning grand slam in the Southern Super Regional finals Tuesday night, Mercier stepped to the plate again Friday night in the Senior American Legion State Championship with the bases loaded.
Once again, Mercier kept his composure, this time delivering a bases-clearing double to left field in the top of the fourth.
Those three runs would be all Southington would need as it beat Ellington 3-2 in Game One of the best-of-three Championship Series.
Game Two is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday with another game immediately following should Ellington win.
“I knew we just needed one run there even if we had to scratch it out. I was just trying to hit a flyball but once I got up 2-0 I got a pitch up and just drove it,” Mercier said. “I’ve just felt really loose. The music is playing, there is good energy and it puts me in a good mood. In a best-of-three, game one is the biggest. You never want to lose the second one but winning tonight gives us a little bit of a cushion.”
Two infield errors and a walk loaded the bases ahead of Mercier.
Ellington coach Heath Kidd said his team has been living dangerously in terms of not being punished for errors but the good luck ran out in the fourth.
“We have a .40 ERA coming into this game. Our pitchers are pitching perfectly but we are just not playing very good defense and today it caught up with us,” Kidd said. “We were able to get by some good teams despite some sloppy play but (Southington) is good and they made us pay. Two errors and a walk, that’s two more unearned runs.”
Ellington led 2-0 prior to things getting sloppy in the fourth.
In the bottom of the first, Kevin Smith hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Dakota Aldrich who had reached on a double to left center.
In the third, a two-out error on a groundball to shortstop allowed Aldrich to score, making it 2-0 Ellington.
“You talk about the stuff of legends and Jeremy Mercier has been playing like a legend,” Southington coach Marc Verderame said. “He comes up here, bases loaded and boom to the wall. 3-run double, he’s just unbelievable and has no pulse in these situations.”
SOUTHINGTON 3, ELLINGTON 2 (GAME ONE)
SOUTHINGTON 000 300 0—3 5 1
ELLINGTON 101 000 0—2 6 2
Batteries: S—Nick Borkowski (W) and Josh Panarella; E—Brayden Barone (L) and Aaron Young