CHESHIRE—The Stratford Post 42 American Legion baseball team might not have the deepest pitching staff in the state, but nobody can question its heart.
One day after using three pitchers to eke out a 6-5 extra-inning win over Bethel in the first round of the state tournament, Post 42 went toe-to-toe with Cheshire on a sun-splashed Sunday morning.
In the end, though, it was host Cheshire which walked off with a 2-1 win over Stratford on a bases-loaded hit batsman.
Stratford (13-13 overall this summer) will host Danbury on Tuesday at Penders Field. Game time is 7 p.m.
The winner of that game will have to beat Cheshire twice to get out of its pod and advance deeper into the tournament.
On Sunday, a single, a walk and two hit batters doomed Stratford in the bottom of the seventh. Stratford hit seven batters total on the day.
“Just an unlucky day,” said Stratford Post 42 head coach Rick Carlson, who is in his first year with the 19U team but fourth with the program. “It was a tight game, a 1-1 game. We came in and did our thing. We had our chances, it just didn’t fall on our side.”
The ending ruined a strong pitching performance from Andrew Carlson, who reached his pitch limit in the top of the seventh after giving up just an unearned run in the third inning.
“Andrew pitched an awesome game and our defense was right on,” said Carlson, who doubles as Andrew’s dad and coach.
Stratford got the run back in the top of the sixth to tie the game.
With one out, Joseph Calzone reached on an error, giving way to pinch-runner Alex Koletar.
Zach Fedak singled, moving Koletar to third, before stealing second base himself.
Brian Teskey then delivered the game-tying single.
“We scrapped back in it. That’s baseball,” Coach Carlson said.
Fedak was 2-for-2 with a walk from the lead-off spot for Stratford.
Tyler Vancho and Pierce Barnum had Stratford’s other hits.
Carlson gave up four hits to Cheshire. He walked three and struck out two.
On Saturday, Stratford had nine hits in a nine-inning win.
Fedak and Dillon Higgins had two hits and two RBIs each in the game.
The Post 42 squad pushed the go-ahead run across the plate in the top of the ninth inning.
Fedak led off with a walk before Higgins singled. Fedak would then score on a wild pitch, making it a 6-5 game.
Koletar, Higgins and Fedak—Stratford’s top three pitchers—all chipped in on the hill, burning their eligibility for Sunday’s game against Cheshire.
“We had to use all three because we had to get the win to get (to Sunday),” Coach Carlson said. “We knew what it meant going into today. It was a great game in 100-degree heat, but we come to play all the time.”
The summer season saw Stratford, which has a roster of 11 players at 19U with a group of seven swing players from the Junior team, go 12-12.
The Post 42 squad, however, lost four games by one run and three more by two runs.
“We have a solid defense and we have a good hitting team,” Coach Carlson said. “We’re a little short on pitching, but we come out on the field with our best nine players and we’re ready to play ball. We leave it all out on the field.”
One of the best games of the season came when Stratford topped Zone 4 power Stamford, with Higgins out-dueling Stamford ace Montana Semmel.
Semmel later would be drafted and signed by the New York Yankees.
More than anything, their coach said, he has a roster of players who are proud to represent the town of Stratford and the American Legion.
“All of our players are very happy to represent the veterans of Stratford,” he said. “They love playing baseball. They’re great kids.”
One more win on Tuesday and Stratford will get another shot at Cheshire, and a chance to show off the players hearts
“If we get by (Danbury), we’ll have to come back here and win two and that’s a difficult situation, but we’ll come to play,” Carlson promised. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re going to give teams a run for their money.”
Players on the Stratford Post 42 state tournament roster are: Brian Teskey (Notre Dame-Fairfield), Logan Zezima (Stratford), Andrew Carlson (Stella Matutina Academy), Brendan Duffy (Stratford), Ronan Johnston (Stratford), Tyler Vancho (Bunnell), Ryan Nelson (Bunnell), Zach Fedak (Stratford), Joseph Calzone (Platt Tech), Matt Browne (Fairfield Prep), Dylan Kovacs (Bunnell), Nicholas Gloria (Bunnell), Jayden Wegrzyn (Bunnell), Dillon Higgins (Notre Dame-Fairfield), Benjamin Petrie (St. James GS), Michael Hoffman (Bunnell), Pierce Barnum (Bunnell) and Alex Koletar (Bunnell).