By Jim Bransfield
WALLINGFORD >> All season long Middletown Legion coach Tim D’Aquila has been singing the same song: win two out of three, win two out of three, win two out of three.
But maybe winning that third of four was never more important than Sunday’s second game at Wallingford.
That’s because Middletown lost a frustrating, 8-inning, 2-1, decision in the opener, wasting a brilliant pitching performance by Luke Sorenson. It was frustrating because: a. the only run Sorenson gave up was unearned, this depriving him of a 1-0 win, and, b. Middletown had second and third and nobody out in the top of the eighth inning and got nothing.
Which made the second game crucial. If the 75ers lost, all of a sudden their lead in the lost column would have been down to one over Cheshire (12-7). But Middletown won the game as Mike McShane (7-0 overall, 6-0 in the zone) fired a six-hit shutout and Jared Pflaumer had a 4-for-4 game with four runs batted in.
“The win in the second game was very important,” said D’Aquila. “McShane was very good. He did what he had to do, throw strikes and work fast. When he is down in the zone as he was today, it’s hard to touch him.
McShane understood the situation.
“I knew it was a very important game for us to win,” McShane said. “Coach has talked all year about taking three out of four and if we have a chance to win the zone, we have to do that.”
Middletown (23-6 overall, 19-5 in the zone) got four runs in the second inning. Pflaumer knocked in a run with a double, John Mormile singled home another, Nick DeShais’ sacrifice fly plated a third and Kyle Farrell singled home the fourth.
The 75ers built the lead to 5-0 in the third on Pflaumer’s double and Pflaumer made it 6-0 with an RBI single in the fifth.
Middletown got two in the seventh, one on an RBI single by Pflaumer and the second when DeShais was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
McShane gave up two hits in the first, two in the fourth, and two in the sixth. The hits in the sixth led the inning, but McShane got the next three batters in a row to preserve the shutout. He struck out five and walked one.
The 75ers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the opener on an RBI single by Pflaumer, but could not score again. Wallingford tied it in the second when, with two outs, Brett Bilodeau singled, moved to second on an error by third baseman Will Woods, and scored on a double by Pete Abate.
Wallingford had second and third with one out in the seventh, but reliever Scott Marks got out of the jam. In the eighth, Jordan Swilling led with single and Pflaumer followed with a walk. Both moved up a base on a passed ball, but Mormile bounced to the mound, Bill Waldner bounced into an out at the plate and Malcolm Alleyne popped out to end the threat.
Wallingford (6-10) won the game in the eighth on Rob Sprafke’s bases-loaded single with nobody out to make a loser of Marks.
“It was frustrating because I felt our hitters didn’t come to play,” said D’Aquila. “But give credit to their pitcher [Brian DeMaio] who kept us off balance. But we’re a better hitting team than that; we should be able to adjust.”
Ryan Cappetta got the win in relief. Middletown stranded 10 base runners.
Middletown began the series by sweeping a doubleheader Saturday night, 2-1 and 12-6, at Palmer Field.
In the opener, Pflaumer (2-0) threw a four hitter, striking out four and walking four. The 75ers scored both their runs in the second inning on a two-run double by Laurence Hill.
Mormile (2-for-3) opened the inning with a base hit and was bunted along by Bill Waldner, After Alleyne popped out, Kyle Farrell drew a walk off starter and loser Matt Heskill, and on a 3-2 pitch, Hill slammed a drive to left that was just out of the reach of Tucker McClure that went for a double and two runs.
Wallingford got a run back in the fifth. The dreaded leadoff walk came around to score when Abate slammed a two-out double to right-center. Jack Manke followed with a single to center, but center fielder Nick Roy easily threw out Abate at the plate to end the inning.
Mike McShane pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to pick up the save. Woods also had two hits for the 75ers.
In the nightcap Middletown built up a five-inning, 8-1 lead behind Mormile. Wallingford got two runs in the sixth, but the rally was short-circuited when Aidan Cobb was thrown out at the plate by Hill on a bloop single to left. Wallingford also had a runner thrown out at third to cut short a budding rally in the third.
The 75ers iced the game with a four-run sixth, giving themselves a 12-3 lead, which enabled them to withstand a three-run seventh by Wallingford off reliever Alleyne.
Roy had three hits and three runs, Woods had two hits, including a double that cleared the bases for three RBIs, Pflaumer had two hits, including a two-run single and Alleyne chipped in with two this.
Wallingford actually outhit Middletown, 14-13, but five of those were cosmetic hits in the seventh. Manke and Sprafke were both 3-for-3, with Sprafke knocking in three.
Mormile went six innings, scattered nine hits, struck out four and walked one. He was charged with three runs, all earned. Dan Russell took the loss, giving up six runs in three and a third innings. Reliever Ben Miller also gave up six runs on nine hits.
Middletown takes this week off from Zone 3 play, but is slated to play six non-zone games before closing out the zone schedule with Cheshire next week. The 75ers will play Meriden three times (non-zone games) Tuesday in Meriden (5:45), Wednesday at home (7:30) and Thursday in Meriden (5:45).
Middletown will be home Saturday for a 4 p.m. game with West Hartford followed by a game with Plainville. Defending state and regional champion Branford visits Palmer Field Sunday at 4 p.m.