MIDDLETOWN >> Middletown High’s baseball team is stringing wins together.
After years of playing win one, lose one baseball — and sometimes it was win one, lose two — this year’s edition of the Blue Dragons has won three in a row and four of its last six.
The latest win came Tuesday afternoon at John DeNunzio Field at MHS when Jared Pflaumer’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh not only lifted MHS to a 2-1 win over Hartford Public in a Central Connecticut Conference interdivisional game, but also clinched a Class L tournament berth for the Dragons.
“This was a very important win,” said MHS coach Jason Serra. “To go two games over .500 [MHS is 8-6] is important. For a long time we’ve had a hard time getting over .500, but now we are two games over and the way we won shows our kids that you can’t ever give up.
“I couldn’t have had a better hitter up in that spot. It was a frustrating afternoon, but Jared made it come out right.”
It wasn’t just Pflaumer. After Luke Sorenson struck out to open the seventh, Austin Rak (1-for-1, two walks) walked on a 3-2 pitch. Losing pitcher Nic Santiago then threw a wild pitch that moved Rak to second.
Chris Rodo (2-for-3) was hit by a pitch putting runners on first and second. Malcolm Alleyne grounded to third, forcing Rodo at second on a bang-bang play for the second out. Santiago decided to pitch from the windup which allowed Alleyne to easily steal second. That turned out to be a huge play.
That’s because Pflaumer (3-for-4) lined the next pitch to right-center for the hit that easily scored both runners to win the game.
“This was a tough one,” said HPHS coach Joe Lombardo. “We’re only 2-9, but we’ve played people close. This is our second one-run loss in a row and over the last four games we’ve played a lot better. My pitcher threw very well and our defense played very well, especially my outfield. I play two freshman and a sophomore in the outfield and they did a great job.”
Public’s outfield had to play well as Santiago had Middletown hitting fly balls all day. Of the 20 MHS outs, 15 were on fly balls, two on excellent running catches early by center fielder Ricky Rohena and left fielder Ralf Hernandez.
“I don’t know what it was, but we just kept hitting fly balls,” said Serra. “That was very frustrating. But hey, in baseball, you can’t always score runs when you want to. But give Public credit. They are very well-coached and their pitcher and defense did great jobs.”
Public took a 1-0 lead off winning pitcher Dan Botti in the fifth inning. With an out, Eddy Rosado singled. He stole second and watched as Henry Villa grounded out and Alexi Madera was hit by a pitch.
Hernandez got the run home when he dropped a pop fly single between center fielder Rodo and shortstop Rak. For the longest time that looked like it would be the only run of the game.
MHS got two walks and an infield hit in the fifth and came up empty. That’s because Luke Sorenson, who drew the first walk after an out, was thrown out stealing. With Rak on with a walk and Rodo on with a single, Alleyne hit a foul pop up to first to leave the two runners stranded.
In the sixth Pflaumer led with a hit, but instead of bunting, Serra let Alex Horn swing away and he was one of the 15 to fly out. Nick Brenchak struck out and after a walk to pinch-hitter Tyler Garcia, Max Molski — what else? — popped to third.
“I chose not to bunt because Horn has been hitting very well,” said Serra. “He’s hitting over .400, so I let him swing.”
But all that was forgotten in the dramatic, walk-off win.
Botti allowed six hits, struck out four and walked no one to get his second win. Santiago allowed six hits, struck out one and walked four to take the loss.
“Santiago is our senior leader and I think my catcher, Henry Villa, is one of the best in the state,” said Lombardo. “But when you’re 2-9, not many know that.”
“I thought Danny did a nice job,” said Serra of his pitcher. “He’s just a sophomore and he’s coming along. He did a great job the other night against Bulkeley and today he kept us in the game.”
Middletown plays at Plainville today in a CCC South game at 3:45 p.m.