CROMWELL >> RCP’s American Legion team broke open a close game with five runs in the fifth and sixth innings to beat Middletown 8-0 in an inter-zone game played Thursday evening at Fran Monnes Field at Cromwell High School.
For RCP, there are only two out-of-zone games left — today with Waterbury at home at 5:45 p.m. and July 14 when Bristol is slated to visit. From here on out, coach T.J. Grande’s club will be looking to nail down the championship of Zone 7 in what has become a competitive race.
“Beginning with Berlin Sunday (two games beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Sage Park in Berlin) it’s pretty much zone games the rest of the way,” said Grande. “It gets very busy and very tough.”
RCP got a solid pitching performance from Matt Osora who made his first start of the season. He was touched for seven hits in five innings, but didn’t walk a man in getting the win. He was backed by a defense that turned two double plays, both times bailing Osora out of jams.
The first DP came with two on and nobody out, and the second — started by a leaping catch at short by Amir Nitowski — came with the bases loaded and one out.
“Matt did a great job,” said Grande. “He kept guys off-balance and threw strikes. Whenever I call on him — including in the World Series last year — he does a great job. He always does whatever we ask of him. I also thought that (Aiden) Gagnon did a very good job.”
Gagnon pitched the final two innings, giving up just a single and striking out two.
“Gagnon had a broken nose which has limited him,” said Grande. “But he can not only pitch, but swings the bat well, too.”
Gagnon was 3-for-3.
Middletown starter Cesar Luna pitched well, allowing one run in three innings. But the relievers — Evan Chicoine, Dennis Beaudry and Danny Botti — did not fare as well.
“We walked too many,” said Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila. “We just didn’t hit our spots.”
Middletown pitching combined to walk six — three of them scored — and hit a batter. RCP had only six hits, but with all the free bases, it didn’t need more than that.
RCP took a 1-0 lead when Kevin Larken, who led the inning with a walk, scored when Sean Melaven hit into a double play. Melaven knocked in a run on a ground ball and a second run scored on a wild pitch as RCP built the lead to 3-0 in the fourth.
RCP (10-3 overall) got two in the fifth on an RBI single by Gagnon and an error, then scored three in the sixth on an RBI run-producing ground ball by Leo Thomas, two walks, hits by Gagnon and Melaven, and an error.
Kieth LaChance had three hits and Billy Egan had two for Middletown.
Middletown (7-7 overall) now turns its attention to the Zone 3 race. At 3-5 in the zone, the 75ers must have a big weekend or become irrelevant in the zone pennant race.
“Madison has shown they can pitch,” said D’Aquila. “So we will have to play well.”
The series starts at Madison Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m., and continues with a pair starting at 4 p.m. Sunday at Palmer Field.
Between games of the Sunday doubleheader, there will be a ceremony commemorating the 70th year of American Legion Baseball in Middletown. Mayor Daniel Drew will throw out the first pitch of the second game and members of the first Legion team in 1946 will be there. The 1946 team was inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame last January.