MERIDEN - In baseball, the right decision sometimes brings about the wrong outcome.
Locked in a tie game with Meriden in the bottom of the fifth, Berlin CTEBA head coach Gary Van Etten signaled to intentionally walk Meriden lefty Kam Hartenstein to put runners at the corners for the righty Owen Papciak, who Berlin’s right-handed starter Garrett Fallon had handled in two previous at-bats.
With two away in the inning, Papciak poked a single to left to plate what ended-up being the game-winning run, sending Berlin to a 4-2 loss on Monday.
“We weren’t going to let [Hartenstein] beat us,” Van Etten said of the intentional walk, a decision he would likely make again. “That’s just baseball.”
Meriden added another run in the sixth, while starter Sean Dupuis went the distance and allowed just six hits, stranding the tying run on base in the seventh.
“We know he’s not going to break 75 [mph] with his fastball and we should have sat off-speed,” Van Etten said. “But he threw a good game and kept us off-balanced.”
Fallon appeared to be in early trouble to start the bottom of the first when Meriden’s Peyton Thiez led off the frame with a hard single that glanced off the glove of third baseman Kyle Hyde, but Berlin’s battery of Fallon and Chris Gendron quickly erased the threat. Fallon struck out Andrew McCarty just before Gendron threw out Thiez, who was attempting to steal second, to complete the double play and end the rally before it began.
Fallon wasn’t able to escape trouble again in the second, allowing a booming double to left off the bat of Dupuis and a single to left by Mike Duffy to put runners at the corners with one out. Dupuis later scored on a wild pitch to put Meriden ahead 1-0, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with still one out. Fallon then fell behind Max Giacco 2-0 before battling back for a big strikeout, and was one strike away from fanning Thiez and ending the inning before bouncing a breaking ball in the dirt that scooted just far enough for Duffy to score and extend Meriden’s lead to 2-0.
But Fallon settled in after to throw six innings and help out a pitching staff in the midst of a four-game stretch in the span of three days.
“He’s young, he’s only pitched a couple times for us this year, but he’s a good player,” Van Etten said of Fallon. “I know he’s going to go out there and do his job.”
Dupuis continued to cruise on the mound for Meriden, retiring eight in a row after allowing a two-out single to Paul D’Amore in the first. He struck out two looking in the third to complete his second straight perfect inning to keep Meriden ahead.
Berlin finally put another runner on when Dan Veleas laced a one-out single to center in the top of the fourth and D’Amore followed with his second single of the game, and sixth hit in his last three contests, and advanced to second when the relay throw was bobbled in the outfield. Vince Dastoli put Berlin on the board with a single up the middle to score Veleas and Nick Melville tied the game with an RBI groundout to short, beating out a potential inning-ending double play.
After settling down for two scoreless frames, Fallon blinked again in the bottom of the fifth. Giacco started the inning with a walk to bring up the top of the order and after two quick outs, Van Etten gave the signal for the intentional walk, and the decision backfired when Papciak lined a single to left to score Giacco and put Meriden back in front 3-2.
Seeking insurance in the sixth, Meriden put the leadoff man in scoring position when Duffy hit a slow roller to third, but Hyde’s throw bounced past Dastoli at first, allowing Duffy to advance to second. After a pickoff attempt, Fallon was called for a balk for not bringing his hands set, moving Duffy to third. He scored easily when the next batter Ethan Brazel lifted a deep sacrifice fly to center to extend Meriden’s lead to 4-2.
Berlin brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the seventh after Dastoli reached on an error and Chris Gendron looped a single over short, but Dupuis finished off the complete game by retiring Hyde, dropping Berlin’s league-leading record to 11-4 after sweeping a doubleheader against Newington on Sunday.
“I’m not happy with the loss, but we’re still at the top,” Van Etten said. “Someone is going to have to beat us a few times to change that.”