By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> There are different kinds of losses. Some days you just tip your cap to the other team and on other days the losses are tough, might-have-been kinds of losses. But then there are the brutal ones, the kind that keeps coaches up at night.
Middletown’s 5-4 Central Connecticut Conference South Division loss to Plainville Monday afternoon was brutal. Really brutal.
Middletown led this one 4-1 through five innings with pitcher Malcolm Alleyne in control. He was magnificent in the fourth inning when, with the bases loaded and no one out, he struck out the side. By all that’s right and holy, it should have been game, set, match right then.
No question that Middletown hurt itself with some zany base-running as three runners inexplicably ran into run-down outs on the bases. But before you can say ‘just six outs to get’ in the top of the sixth, Alleyne came undone and gave up a 3-spot for a 4-4 tie.
Then, in an ominous reminder of last year when the Blue Dragons elevated losing one-run games to an art form, center fielder Chris Rodo misplayed a fly ball into a three-base error and a run in the seventh, making a loser of reliever Jared Pflaumer and the Blue Dragons.
“We let one get away,” said Middletown coach Jason Serra. “I said before the season if we don’t hurt ourselves, we’ll win a lot of games. Today we gave Plainville the game. We’re a much better team than Plainville, but we gave them the game.
“I’m a fundamentals coach.. But I can’t control them on the field. We work on fundamentals all the time, then they go out and do that.”
Plainville coach Lou Mandeville accepted the win.
“Yeah, we kind of stole one,” Mandeville said. “We’re going to get on the bus as fast as we can and get out of here. We’ll take a win any way we can get it.”
Mandeville was being a little tough on himself and his team. With the game up for grabs, the Blue Devils went out and took it.
Through the first five innings, Alleyne gave up just one run on only four hits, struck out five and walked just one. But at 4-1, it was very much a game as Plainville proved in the sixth.
Mike Munson opened the inning with a double, Matt Savron followed with a walk and after Jon Lindgren popped out, Alleyne hit Marc Milo with a pitch to load the bases. Alleyne got Kyle Belan to pop up for the second out, but then came an interlude in the action, courtesy of Serra.
Mandeville sent up Brett Snowden to hit for No. 9 hitter Buzz Adams. With a 2-0 count, Serrra came to the plate umpire and pointed out that Snowden’s name was not on the lineup card.
Conference time. The umps talked to Serra. Then to both coaches. Then with each other. Putin and Obama should talk so much. Meanwhile, Alleyne stood around watching. After seven or eight minutes of conversation, the umps said all this was nonsense and continued the game.
Alleyne promptly walked Snowden to force in a run, then gave up a single over third to Cody Charneski for two runs and a tie.
“Malcolm ran out of gas,” said Serra. “When he’s on the mound, we always feel like we have a chance to win. But give their pitcher a little bit of credit. He hit his spots. He made adjustments and we didn’t.”
Middletown (3-2) had Austin Rak on first with two outs in the sixth when Pflaumer hit a slow roller to short that Shane Pugliese couldn’t field. It went for a scratch single. But Rak rounded second too far and was caught in a rundown for the third out.
Serra was not pleased. Loudly so.
Alleyne had similarly been caught off second in the first inning, and Rodo was trapped off third on a bouncer to third in the second.
In the top of the seventh, Pflaumer walked leadoff hitter Rob Pezzulo, which is never a good idea. Two batters later Matt Savron lined one to center that Rodo missed to give Plainville the lead.
Nick Brenchak led the home seventh with an infield single, but Colin Horn (2-for-4) bounced into a double play and Sebby Amenta lined to short to end it.
“My pitcher [Pezzulo] kept his composure,” said Mandeville. “He kept fighting, even early when Middletown hit him pretty well. We made some adjustments, he mixed things up and kept the ball down late. He did a good job.”
MHS had seven hits in the first three innings, but only three after that. Pezzulo went the distance, striking out no one and walking one.
MHS got a run in the first on Horn’s RBI double, then got three in the third on an RBI single by Amenta, another run-producing single by Dan Gustafson and a sacrifice fly by Rodo.
Plainville got a run in the first when Pezzulo singled home Charneski who had singled and stolen second. Plainville was 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.
“There are a lot of good teams in the CCC,” said Mandeville. “Every day is like this. But no question this was a big win; it got us even at 2-2.”
Middletown is home with Maloney of Meriden Wednesday.