Baseball: Pitching, defense lift Maloney past Middletown

MIDDLETOWN >> Middletown High baseball coach Jason Serra said his team’s Central Connecticut Conference South Division 9-1 loss to Maloney Wednesday afternoon was as bad a game as his team has played this season.

He will get no argument.

The Blue Dragons (3-3) again were guilty of ghastly base running, made six errors and sabotaged a creditable performance by pitcher Luke Sorenson. Yet the Spartans only led 4-1 until the seventh inning when Middletown’s relief pitching blew up to the tune of five runs.

“Luke didn’t have any pop today,” said Serra of his lefty. “But he still kept us in the game.”

Sorenson went six innings and gave up just four hits for four runs, but only two were earned. He struck out five and walked three, but contributed to his demise by throwing a bunt away that led to an unearned run.

Winning pitcher A.J. Hendrikson also went six innings, allowing just one run and scattering five hits, just one over the first four innings. He struck out three and walked two and got lucky twice due to the Blue Dragons’ base running antics.

In the fourth inning MHS had Jared Pflaumer on second with an out. Colin Horn struck out, but the ball hit the dirt, requiring a throw to first to retire Horn. But Pflaumer, who had nowhere to go, wandered far off second and catcher Mike Gulino gunned him out.

In either case there would have been two outs, but if Serra had his druthers he’d take a runner on second rather than a runner on first. But that was a preview of coming attractions.

Down 4-0, the Dragons mounted a rally in the sixth. They got a walk from Pflaumer, a single from Max Molski and an RBI double to right from Horn. After a pop-up, Sorenson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Nevin Sanchez hit what looked like a sacrifice fly to left that would have cut the lead to 4-2. But Molski left third early and Maloney immediately appealed and plate umpire Jim Warren banged Molski out on appeal.

“We have players watch the ball and tag on their own,” said Serra, who coaches third base. “He’s not a player with a lot of experience, maybe he was nervous, I don’t know.”

Maloney took a 1-0 lead in the first on two Middletown errors. With one out, Kyle Hartenson (3-for-4) singled to right and the ball got through Nick Brenchak for a two base error. With the infield in, shortstop Pflaumer booted Mike Gulino’s ground ball for the run.

The Spartans (4-1, 2-0 in the division) got two in the fourth, one on Sorenson’s throwing error on a bunt and the second on a passed ball. Maloney built its lead to 4-0 in the sixth when Hector Gonzalez tripled to center and scored on a wild pitch.

“We have played very good defense and gotten good pitching,” said Maloney coach Howie Hewitt. “I don’t want to jinx it, but in our last four games we’ve given up zero, one, zero and one run. Today we got good pitching and defense and some timely hits.”

Hewitt said that Hendrikson’s effort was typical.

“A.J. throws strikes,” Hewitt said. “He threw a 1-0 shutout last time out and today he made big pitches to get out of jams. He’s a competitor.”

Maloney blew the game open with five runs in the seventh against Blue Dragons relievers Brendan Arrone and Ben Gilliland.

“Sorenson had thrown 98 pitches and that was enough,” said Serra. “Today’s game was a combination of everything. But I will fix it. I’m not sure what to do yet, but we’ll figure it out.”

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