BERLIN >> Laurence Hill blasted a key two-run triple and reliever Mike McShane notched three clutch strikeouts in the final two innings as Middletown edged Berlin, 3-1, in the opening game of a four-game series Tuesday night at Sage Park’s Zipadelli Field.
The Zone 3 Showdown between the league’s top two teams certainly lived up to its billing.
“That was the old Middletown and Berlin rivalry,” said Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila. “It doesn’t matter what the records are. We fought, they fought. A ball lands somewhere and all of a sudden Berlin is up 4-3.”
D’Aquila was referring to the bottom of the sixth when Berlin, which trailed 3-1, loaded the bases by drawing three walks against Post 75 starter John Mormile. McShane, however, relieved Mormile with two outs and got out of the jam by striking out Logan Taricani.
Berlin also threatened in the bottom of the seventh when Dave Condon led off with a single to center and, after a fielder’s choice, Alec Norton reached on an infield hit to third. Berlin now had the winning run up at the plate but McShane struck out Hunter Tralli (2-for-4) and Mitch Williams to end it.
“A couple of hits in a couple of clutch spots and it’s a different ballgame,” said Berlin coach Rob Manzo, now in his 17th season. “We’ve been hitting all year. But hats off to the Middletown (pitching) staff. That’s a solid staff over there.”
Berlin took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Norton (2-for-3) led off with double into the left field corner, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
Tralli (2-for-4) followed with a scorching single but Hill scooped up a hard-hit grounder from Williams at shortstop and turned it into a double play.
Mormile got Jeff Sylvester to fly out to right and Post 75’s hard throwing righthander settled down nicely after that first frame. Mormile scattered three hits, walked four and struck out three over the next five innings.
“He was up in the first and I think he was excited,” said D’Aquila. “I shouldn’t have told him last night that he was pitching. He ended up pitching well.”
Berlin starter Andrew Charboneau was equally impressive. Charboneau, who just finished his sophomore season at Berlin High, blanked Middletown on three hits over the first four innings.
But with one out in the fifth Malcolm Alleyne dropped a single into centerfield, Kyle Farrell drew a walk on a close 3-2 pitch and that set the stage for Hill, who rocketed a triple to the fence in centerfield. Nick Roy followed with a sacrifice fly and Middletown had a 3-1 advantage.
“Good teams get clutch hits,” added Manzo. “Hill beat us there on that triple, which was a huge hit, and that’s what good players do.”
Middletown (18-4 overall, 14-3 league) moved two and a half games ahead of Berlin (19-5 overall, 10-4 league) in the Zone 3 race.
“It was just one of those games,” said Manzo, who guided Berlin to the American Legion World Series in 2009. “We’ll come back and battle tomorrow and see what happens. We’re not giving up on anything yet.”
The teams meet today (Wednesday, July 2) at Palmer Field for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m.
“These are the games that are fun,” said D’Aquila. “These are the ones that make you better. Rob does a great job. They have great kids. They worked their butts off just like our kids.”
es todasy and they held that offense in check so tghatks positive and