CHESHIRE >> Middletown Post 75 put Cheshire’s Zone 3 pennant-clinching party on hold — again.
After a 3-2 walkoff victory Wednesday night at Palmer Field, the 75ers beat Cheshire (18-5) for the second night in a row, 1-0, Thursday at Burt Leventhal Field at Cheshire High School.
But it turned out only to be a delay of a couple of hours for Cheshire as Berlin defeated Wallingford Thursday night 4-2 to not only hand Cheshire the Zone 3 crown, but clinch second place ahead of Wallingford.
Middletown (15-8) scored the game’s only run in the top of the sixth inning on Nevin Sanchez’ two-out single that drove in Jake Alonzo (2-for-3). Middletown got one-out singles from Alonzo and Nick Roy (2-for-4) before Sanchez dropped a single into center field.
But the story of this game was pitching.
“Our pitchers were great,” said Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila. “Ben [Gilliland], Jared [Pflaumer, winner] and Nick [Roy} all were excellent. We stuck to our plan both Wednesday and tonight of getting ready for the state tournament by getting everybody some work, but at the same time we played very hard to win.
“We beat one of the state’s best pitchers tonight.”
That pitcher was Kyle Waldron who defeated Middletown last season en route to the state championship. He struck out eight, but the 75ers got to him for eight hits and threatened all night long. Waldron was tough in the clutch as he stranded nine Middletown runners.
Middletown’s pitchers were better.
The trio allowed just four hits — two each to Wes Robertson and Jay Strollo — and struck out six, none bigger than the last out of the game.
D’Aquila brought in Roy to save the game in the seventh and after getting two out on a fly ball and strikeout, Strollo doubled down the left field line. Then, on a 3-2 pitch, Roy got Dave Villecco on a breaking pitch for a called third strike to end it.
“The past two nights have been good baseball,” said Cheshire coach Bill Robertson. “It’s like last year, coming down to the last couple of games. That’s the way it works.”
D’Aquila said his team is playing well at the right time.
“Because of our pitching, we have a puncher’s chance in the tournament,” he said. “We aren’t making errors, but the biggest thing is we are getting our kids to swing the bat; to be aggressive. I gave just two signs tonight, one for a bunt and one for a steal. One worked [the bunt] and one didn’t, but those were all the signs I gave. We want our kids to swing the bats and I’m pleased with how we did that tonight against a very good pitcher.”
After Friday’s make-up game at Cheshire at 5:45 p.m., Middletown will play its first playoff game Saturday at noon. The matchup and location will be announced by the State Legion later Friday evening. Game time Saturday is noon.
The winners of Saturday’s games around the state — there will be 16 games — will play on Sunday, concluding the two rounds of single-elimination play. The eight survivors will play the eight zone champions in best-of-three series beginning next Wednesday at the zone champion’s fields.