Non-zone contest provides diversion for Meriden

MERIDEN — Doug Wedge had a succinct message for his Meriden Post 45 squad in advance of the exhibition game against Middletown — get in your whacks and relax.

Middletown Post 75, which has a three-game lead over the second-place 45ers in Zone 3 with four games to play, sent over a team top-heavy with players from one of its two Junior Legion teams. The outcome — a 7-6 Meriden victory Tuesday night at Legion Field — wasn’t among the more important affairs of the day.

“We came through the last 10 games with a 9-1 record,” Wedge said. “Tonight, you cold hear them laughing. We’ll crank it up on a more serious note for [today’s] doubleheader against them [at Palmer Field], but for tonight, it was no pressure, get in your reps and have fun, and they did.”

Nobody had more fun than Evan Golebiewski. The Middletown youngsters surged to 5-2 lead with four runs in the third inning when Golebiewski slammed a two-run homer over the fence to the left of straightaway center field to key a four-run frame.

“It was rewarding,” the former Platt star said. “I was trying to hit a line drive the other way. That’s what happens when you have a good approach.”

Golebiewski, who hadn’t pitched since last summer, came on in the seventh to protect the one-run lead. He walked two and hit a batter but induced a pop fly to preserve the win for Kyle Hartenstein, who hurled three innings of one-run ball in relief of starter Will Kszywanos.

The other big hit in the inning was a leadoff triple by Brandon Valentin. Catcher Mike Gulino had a pair of doubles, drove in two runs and threw out two runners trying to steal to blow up a potential Middletown uprising in the second inning.

Meriden is now 17-9 overall and Middletown is 23-7, but the result has no bearing on the postseason seeding process. In the games between the team that counted toward the Zone 3 standings June 21-22, Middletown won three of four. Middletown has a four-game set with third-place Cheshire while Meriden’s games that count come at sixth-place Westbrook.

A spot in the tournament is secure but Wedge and Company are looking for a higher seed. He feels the respite on Tuesday will help the 45ers make a successful season-ending push.

“You can give guys a rest physically but I wanted them to rest mentally, too,” he said. “During regular games, they have to focus on every pitch. You need to be mentally tough and you need a mental break, just like you need a physical break.”

Playing a non-zone game was more appealing to him rather than a practice session.

“I was able to put guys in different spots,” Wedge said. “[Kszywanos] has been throwing well and you need arms to go deep in the state tournament. When you compare programs, non-zone games show who is the most active. We play 35 games this year and if we could get more, we’d take more.”

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