MIDDLETOWN >> Last inning lightning didn’t strike twice.
Monday afternoon, Middletown’s Jared Pflaumer got a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the 10th to give the Blue Dragons a win over Plainville. Tuesday against Bristol Central at John Denunzio Field, Pflaumer came up in the bottom of the seventh with his team down by a run and the bases loaded.
Not this time.
Middletown trailed by four going to the seventh, but rallied for three runs and had the bases loaded with two out when Pflaumer came to bat. He hit the ball hard, but lined out to center fielder Jalen Benoit who came in and made a knee-high catch to save the 4-3 Central Connecticut Conference South Division win for the Rams.
“We almost gave it up, but we didn’t,” Bristol Central coach Bunty Ray said. “We played a clean game all day, we got timely hitting and played Bristol Central baseball. We haven’t been doing that, although we’ve been in a lot of close game, so we’re used to it.
“We started 2-7 [Central is now 6-9] so we’re playing better. We want to make the tournament.”
Middletown (7-6) remained one game short of tournament qualification.
The story of this game is that for six innings, the Blue Dragons could do nothing with Central starter and winner, Jaeden Rasmus.
Rasmus threw the most important pitch in baseball for six innings — strike one — and limited the Dragons to two singles going to the seventh. But Middletown rallied.
Colin Horn led the inning with a triple to center field and after Sebby Amenta bounced to third, Nevin Sanchez slapped a single to left for the Dragons’ first run. Mark Haller followed with a triple to the fence in center for a run, and when shortstop Noah Platamuro booted Nick Brenchak’s ground ball — the only error of the game — Haller scored to cut the lead to 4-3.
The run would have scored anyway, but the error put the tying run on base.
“My kid played very good shortstop all day,” Ray said. “That error came on a tricky hop; a tough play.”
Things immediately got more dicey for Central.
Evan Chicoine (2-for-3) singled and when Austin Rak was hit by a pitch, Middletown had the bases loaded with the tying run on third and the winning run on second. But Chris Rodo bounced to third for a force at the plate and Pflaumer followed with his liner to center.
“We played with not much energy,” Middletown coach Jon Plefka said. “We need to be ready to go from the beginning. Central played the game the right way; they manufactured runs. We struggled all day and they beat us for six innings. Our approach at the plate wasn’t good. They pitched in a pattern, but we didn’t adjust.
“I’m pleased that we bounced back, but we shouldn’t have been in that position.”
Central took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on three consecutive two-out singles by Jordan Banks, Ricky Lemke (2-for-3) and Benoit (2-for-3). They built the lead to 2-0 in the fourth on a leadoff double by Noah Cruz, a balk by losing pitcher Dan Botti, and an RBI groundout by Lemke.
The winners’ third run came in the sixth on a triple by Tony Nicoletti and a long sacrifice fly to center by Cruz. The fourth — and deciding — run came in the top of the seventh on a one-out walk to Jerry LaPenta, a stolen base and a single by Jake Hall. It looked like a so-what run at the time, but it turned out to be the margin of victory.
Plefka said that Botti pitched well enough to win on most days.
“He’s been battling,” said the coach. “It’s his first year pitching at the varsity level and he’s getting better every day.
He will really help us down the road.”
Middletown is home with Maloney today at 3:45.