MONROE >> Cinderella is alive and well and is wearing a Middletown Post 75 baseball uniform.
The upstart 75ers notched their second state tournament upset in a row Sunday, 7-3 over Monroe of Zone 5, and just like that, Middletown is in the Sweet 16. They will take on old friend Cheshire, the Zone 3 champion, in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Cheshire.
The series will continue Thursday with a 2:30 p.m. game at Cheshire Middletown will be the home team in this game — and if a third game is needed it will be played right after the first game Thursday in Cheshire.
Middletown (10-16) took a 4-0 lead in the third inning. After Monroe closed to within 4-2, the 75ers tacked on three more in the sixth inning to salt the game away. For the second game in a row, Dan Botti was the winning pitcher in relief, this time of starter Jared Pflaumer.
Scott Marks threw the sixth and Jake Alonzo pitched in the seventh as coach Tim D’Aquila kept on bringing in fresh arms on the hot day. The quartet held Monroe to five hits — two by Mike Slattery — and walked just one.
“The heat was tough to work in,” said D’Aquila. “But I thought all our pitchers did a great job. Jared was excellent, but after four innings he had enough. Then Danny, Scott and Jake all were very good.
“Marks [who pitched six and a third Saturday] came to me before the game and said his arm felt better than it did yesterday, so I was able to use him for an inning. If he had told me anything else, I wouldn’t have gone near him.”
Middletown played errorless — and at times brilliant — defense. Pflaumer made two terrific throws on bunts while he was pitching, Alonzo ended the third with a great throw from the shortstop hole and Pflaumer, who was at short in the seventh, ended the game with a tough pickup of a line drive at his feet to throw the batter out.
The 75ers’ pitching staff threw 13 ground ball outs.
“We’re playing very well,” said D’Aquila. “We are making plays and we’re hitting the ball and getting timely hits. Like we did against Trumbull, we got people on and put pressure on them. Also, by getting an early jump, that put even more pressure on them.”
The four-run second began innocently. With one out, Nevin Sanchez walked. Billy Egan then dropped down a pretty bunt down the third base line for a hit. Alonzo (3-for-4) thought that was a good idea, so he did the same for another bunt single that loaded the bases.
Anthony Franco lined a single to right for the game’s first run and Colin Horn walked to force in another. With two outs, Pflaumer (2-for-4) lined a double to the left field corner scoring two runs and only a perfectly executed relay got Horn at the plate on a bang-bang play.
Monroe (16-9) got two in the fourth on an RBI double by Tim Quinlan, who was bunted to third and scored on a ground ball to short by losing pitcher Pat Ryan (six innings, nine hits, seven runs, all earned).
Middletown built the lead to 7-2 in the sixth. With one out Pflaumer singled to left. Nick Brenchak boomed a double to the fence in center with Pflaumer easily scoring from first.
With two outs Nevin Sanchez walked and Dan Botti lined a single to right for a run and Alonzo singled home another. Middletown scored four of its seven runs after two were out.
Monroe’s final run came on a walk, a stolen base and two ground ball outs in the sixth.
Botti pitched out of trouble in the fifth. Pat Lassoro doubled to open the inning and was balked to third. But Botti stranded him there on a fly ball, a strikeout and another fly ball.
When Botti walked the first batter in the sixth, D’Aquila brought in Marks who retired the next three hitters. Alonzo gave up a leadoff single in the seventh, but then got three in a row to end it.
Monroe coach Bob Pagel was ejected by home plate umpire D.J. Nadeau in the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes, although Pagel never left the dugout. Pagel said it was the first time in 12 years he had been ejected.