MIDDLETOWN >> It’s tough to pitch much better than this.
Middletown Post 75 threw its second consecutive state tournament shutout, this time 9-0 over Zone 5 second place finisher Monroe in the Connecticut Legion Baseball Tournament at Masuk High School Sunday afternoon.
Saturday the 75ers blanked Norwalk 5-0 behind Scott Marks (5-2) with relief help from Sebby Amenta and Sean Lenehan. Saturday it was Danny Botti, Mike Gaboury (winner, 6-1) and Luke Garofalo who did the honors, holding Monroe (17-6) to three singles.
Middletown, one of 16 teams left standing, plays at Zone 4 champion Greenwich Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the first of a best-of-three series at Greenwich High School.
“We have pitchers who pitch to contact and we played very good defense,” said Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila. “That enables our pitchers to throw fewer pitches per inning. It’s so much better when they throw 12-14 pitches an inning rather than 25.”
Botti went 2 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit. Gaboury went 3 1/3, allowing just two hits and Garofalo finished up with a 1-2-3 seventh. They combined for four strikeouts and three walks. Only in the third did Monroe get a runner to third and had runners on first and third with one out.
But Botti got a fly ball and a comebacker to leave ‘em stranded.
Middletown (24-6) made life easy for itself by getting three in the first inning off starter and loser Pat Ryan.
“To get three in the first on the road in a tournament game was very important,” said D’Aquila. “We haven’t done that very often this year. Usually we have to get through the lineup once before we settle in, but yeah, getting them early was important.”
Tyler Popp (2-for-3) doubled in the first run, Connor Cardi singled home the second, and the third scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Billy Egan.
Middletown left the bases loaded in the second and had runners run into outs on the bases in the third and fourth that killed scoring chances, but when the Monroe defense collapsed in the fifth, Middletown built its lead to 5-0.
Popp’s routine fly ball to center was dropped to start the festivities. With two outs, Cardi’s ground ball was booted and when Egan’s grounder was misplayed, a run scored. Jack Higgs made Monroe pay some more with an RBI single to center and Middletown was cruising 5-0.
The 75ers turned the game into a rout with four in the sixth. Tim Dickson’s (2-for-3) RBI single plated Garofalo (4-for-4) with the first run and two wild pitches allowed Popp and Dickson to score. The fourth run scored when the catcher threw the ball wildly past third as Ben Alonzo trotted home.
Middletown is one of just two teams to win twice on the opening weekend. Stamford is the other.
“I think our success has a lot to do with the number of games we play in Zone 3,” said D’Aquila. “We played 28 games, the most of any zone. Our kids like to play games, we want to get kids at bats, we want our pitchers to pitch. We want our kids to get used to all kinds of situations, so at tournament time we don’t get rattled.
“We also played more non-zone games than anyone in the state and that helps.”
Middletown played 10 non-zone games and was 7-3 for an overall record of 31-9.
Monroe finished at 17-6.