Connecticut Hackers fall short in title game

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WEST HAVEN — History did not repeat itself for the Connecticut Hackers.

The Meriden Blaze outslugged the Hackers, 9-3, to deny the Naugatuck-based adult baseball team a league record-tying fourth consecutive title. With the win, the Blaze captured the regular season and post-season National Adult Baseball Association Southern Connecticut division titles.

The Hackers, who were appearing in their fifth straight championship game, fought past the first two rounds of their divisional post-season with timely hitting, solid pitching and clean fielding. They strayed from that script in the title game at Quigley Stadium in West Haven Sunday afternoon.

“Maybe we were too complacent,” said Hackers player/manager Mike Doran.  “We’re used to winning, and maybe we let our guard down.”

Wes Dutton of the Connecticut Hackers delievers a pitch on Sunday afternoon in West Haven. The Hackers lost, 9-3, to the Meriden Blaze in the NABA Southern Connecticut Division championship game.

The Blaze, who completed the season with two losses, took advantage of the Hackers’ bad day. Meriden scored first, capitalized on miscues and kept the Hackers off the scoreboard at key points of the game.

After the Hackers plated three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead, starting pitcher Mike Fox found trouble in the bottom half.  Fox, pitcher of the year and championship MVP in each of the last two seasons, wasn’t himself.

Fox surrendered a three-run homer to Rob Tencza, who cleared the high, ivy-covered wall in left field on a 3-1 pitch.  The homer gave Meriden a lead they never gave up.

The Hackers didn’t record a hit in the final three innings and failed to score.

The Hackers appeared to have life in the seventh, after Dan Kaminski worked a walk and stole second. But Kaminski never got past second before the side was retired.

The Blaze tallied insurance runs in their half of the seventh. Christain Sojo, the Blaze’s speedy lead-off hitter, singled to start the rally.  Sojo, who reached base four times in five plate appearances,  advanced to third on a single by Francisco Asencio and scored on a two-run single by Alex Rivera off Wes Dutton, who had just entered the game with one out in the inning.

Asencio eventually scored on an error to give the Blaze an 8-3 edge after seven and added another run in the eighth on an error.

The Hackers had shown fight earlier in the game after falling behind 2-0 in the fifth.  In the sixth, they scored three times.

Jeff Farrell and Nick Pereira hit back-to-back singles with one out. Jacin Perez followed with a sharp grounder that got past Tencza, the Blaze’s short stop.

With the bases loaded, Dutton fisted a single to left to score Farrell and Pereira to tie the game at two. Craig Vincelette reached on an error to move Perez to third.

Perez later scored on a wild pitch from Tencza, who relieved Blaze starting pitcher Charlie Hesseltine earlier in the inning. Tencza settled down to strike out the next two batters and did not allow a hit the rest of the way.

“It was a good year,” Doran said.  “Not a great year, but a good year.  We were missing that big hitter in the middle of the lineup and it showed today.  But the pitching was good all year.”

Deciding a championship with one game is difficult in baseball, Doran said.

“It’s a snapshot,” Doran said.  “But we’ll be ready to go at it again next year.”