MONROE >> In a game in which both teams missed opportunity after opportunity, Monroe struck for three runs in the eighth inning to come from behind and eliminate Middletown from the American Legion state playoffs, 4-3, at Masuk High School Saturday afternoon.
Middletown (15-10) took a 3-1 lead to the eighth behind Scott Marks, but Monroe rallied for three, highlighted by a booming two-run triple by Paul Marchese (4-for-4) that tied the game. Monroe then got the winning run on a ground ball to second by Cam Lazor that scored Marchese.
The throw to the plate from Anthony Franco was in the dirt, but it appeared as though Marchese beat the play.
“It’s frustrating,” said Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila. “We needed one big hit, especially when we had the bases loaded [with one out] in the seventh.”
Middletown loaded the bases and had a run in to take a 3-1 lead on Kyle Farrell’s (2-for-4) base hit. But Colin Horn struck out and Jared Pflaumer bounced into an easy force at third on the first pitch to leave the bases loaded.
While D’Aquila lamented the need for a big hit, Monroe sang the same song.
Monroe (20-8, third in Zone 5) loaded the bases in the second inning with no outs and got nothing as Marks struck out Quinton Barker and got Matt Romoniello to bounce into a doubleplay.
The winners got the first two on the fourth and the same thing happened. Marks struck out Lazor (2-for-4) and induced Pat Ryan to hit into a doubleplay.
“It was one of those games in which we finally broke through,” said Monroe coach Bob Pagel. “We were hitting the ball well, but they were making all the plays. Middletown is a very good defensive team and a solid team all-around. But I just told the guys around the sixth inning not to press, just keep at it, and it would eventually come to us.”
Middletown took a 2-0 lead in the third inning and it began with two outs and nobody on.
Jake Alonzo beat out a bunt and he promptly stole second. Nick Roy drive him home with a base hit and after Farrell walked, Nevin Sanchez singled to center for the second run.
Monroe got a run back in the sixth on Marchese’s RBI double, but the 75ers answered in the seventh on Farrell’s aforementioned single. That it wasn’t a bigger inning came back to haunt.
“We were one hit from breaking it open,” said D’Aquila.
In the category of lost opportunities were two hits in the fifth, but hits that were sandwiched around a doubleplay. Another chance came in the sixth when hits by Pflaumer (2-for-4) and Luigi Fazzino gave the 75ers two on with one out, but Franco lined into an inning ending doubleplay.
Middletown turned three doubleplays and played errorless defense while Monroe turned two.
Both pitchers went the distance. The winner, Chris Lindquist (6-0), pitched out of jam after jam, stranding nine Middletown runners. He gave up 10 hits and walked three and his mates made two errors behind him. But he survived.
“He’s a bulldog,” said Pagel. “He’s the kind of guy you want pitching the ninth. He wants the ball and if I tried taking him out, he wouldn’t have given me the ball.”
Marks gave up 12 hits, walked one and hit a batter. It was that hit batter leading off the eighth on a 3-2 pitch that triggered the game-winning rally. Marks pitched out of every jam but one and that one meant the game.
Did D’Aquila think about taking out Marks, who threw 126 pitches, in the eighth?
“We talked about taking him out,” said D’Aquila. “But the ball the kid hit for the triple was neck high; the pitch we wanted. He just got on top of it. Scott’s our No. 1 and he deserved a chance to get us to the ninth.”
After hitting Jay Buhlman to start the eighth, Marks got Kyle Horton to pop to third. Tim Quinlan (2-for-4) singled and then Marchese ripped a line drive down the right field line — right field is 408 feet away — for the big hit of the game.
Middletown got a two-out single from Farrell in the ninth, but Sanchez bounced to first to end it.