STAMFORD >> The Baseball Gods are unforgiving. Make mistakes in a big game against a good team and the Gods’ punishment will be swift and ruthless.
So it was Wednesday afternoon as Middletown Post 75 made three mistakes which added up to a 3-2 loss to Zone 4 champion Stamford in the first game of a best-of-three series in the State Legion playoffs at Cubeta Stadium. Game two will be on Thursday at 3 p.m. and if Middletown wins that one, game three will follow.
The three mistakes are easy to document: 1) The failure to execute a sacrifice bunt in the third inning; 2) A messed-up pickoff attempt that fueled a two-run Stamford rally in the fourth; and 3) A pickoff of a Middletown runner who led the ninth inning with a walk.
In each case the Gods were merciless.
Middletown got its first two runners on in the third inning of a scoreless game. Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila ordered Jared Pflaumer, who was the team’s hottest hitter with five hits in his previous seven at bats, to bunt.
But he bunted back to the pitcher who threw to third for a force out. Middletown got nothing out of the inning.
“I wanted to get a runner to third,” said D’Aquila. “I wanted Will Woods to come up with runners on second and third.”
Woods hit a rocket off of pitcher Randy Polonia, who chased it down near the third base line and got Woods at first. Jordan Swilling then struck out and Middletown got nothing.
In the fourth inning Kevin Stone led with a double and with one out, Chris Ruiz singled him to third. Pitcher Luke Sorenson, who has the best pickoff move this side of Andy Pettitte, picked Ruiz off first, but in the rundown, first baseman Swilling, rather than run at Stone who was in no man’s land off third, threw to third too early.
The throw was inaccurate and while Woods caught the ball near third, the throw was so wide that Stone was able to get back safely.
Ryan Lee then singled home Stone and Pete Horn knocked in Ruiz with a base hit.
“We executed the pickoff well, but we messed up on the throw.” said D’Aquila.
Stamford got a run off reliever Scott Marks (four innings, one run, three hits) in the sixth on a two out single by John Spoto, who drove home Cam Greig from second base to take a 3-0 lead.
Middletown rallied for two in the seventh. Nick Roy opened with an infield single, went to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a hit by John Mormile and scored on a sacrifice fly by Malcolm Alleyne.
Bill Waldner reached when shortstop Ronnie Jackson booted his ground ball and Pflaumer got a two-out single to score Mormile.
All that was prologue to the ninth.
Alleyne walked to open the inning, but during Waldner’s at bat, Alleyne got picked off by relief pitcher Sean Urbano, who had thrown over several times.
Waldner then struck out, but Laurence Hill followed with a single and Pflaumer reached on another error by Jackson. But Woods bounced up the middle to second to end it.
“Can’t have someone get picked off there, just can’t,” D’Aquila said. “I don’t think we played very well today. We didn’t have the same energy we had the other day. I don’t know what it is.
“Their pitcher did a good job, but we didn’t have good at bats. We let him dictate what was happening. I thought Luke (Sorenson) gutted it out for four innings and Marks did a good job. You come in here and hold them to three runs, you figure you should win.”
Stamford coach Kevin Murray said he hasn’t had Polonia (2-1) for much of the season.
“He came out of high school with a high ankle sprain,” Murray said. “But he’s a special pitcher who wants the ball in big spots. I thought he challenged their hitters today.”
Middletown fell to 22-9 in zone and tournament play.