MIDDLETOWN — Game tied, bases loaded, its best hitter at the plate and the center and right fielders playing shallow. What more could Middletown have hoped for Monday night?
Luke Garofalo cleared the bases with a fourth-inning triple into the gap as Post 75 rallied from an early three-run deficit to eliminate Westport 9-5 in the American Legion state tournament at Palmer Field.
“I loved that hit,” Post 75 coach Jay Famiglietti said. “As the third-base coach, you love the no-brainer. Straight to the gap.”
Middletown (17-13) will try to win another pod-elimination game Tuesday when it plays host North Haven at Bob DeMayo Field. Both teams are 1-1 in their Southern Division four-team pod. The winner would play Oakville (2-0) on Wednesday. The winner of the pod will advance to the eight-team super-regional phase of the tournament.
Westport, which finished its season 13-13, applied pressure in the early innings. Matt Stone’s two-run single in the first and Chris Drbal scoring on Andrew Moy’s bases-loaded walk gave Post 63 a 3-0 lead.
Westport had opportunities to break the game wide open and didn’t. Post 75 starter Sean Lenehan, who struggled with a small strike zone by walking seven, picked off a runner at second and a runner at first to end the second inning. In the third, he induced a pop-up to the mound with the bases full.
“The two pickoffs were big,” Famiglietti said. “Sean gets a couple of guys out there without throwing a pitch. We were able to keep (Westport) close enough, and then we got the three from Luke.”
Westport left-hander Jack Portman, who struck out the side in the second, came apart in the third.
Portman walked Middletown’s first two batters, and a Garofalo single loaded the bases with one out. Tim Dickson and Connor Cardi followed with run-scoring singles, and when Portman hit Connor Rulnick with an 0-1 fastball, his three-run lead was gone.
Portman was visibly unhappy with the strike zone after the two walks and his command wasn’t the same after that.
“I thought both (starting pitchers) were right around the plate all night,” Westport coach Jeff Love said. “It is what it is. Both of our pitchers threw pretty well. Jack threw well and Alex (reliever Alex Cheema) did a good job, too.”
After Garofalo’s triple broke the 3-3 tie and Cardi brought him home with a groundout, Post 75 led 7-3 and Portman’s night was over. Portman allowed seven runs, all earned, on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.
“Middletown put the bats on the ball. They had a lot of clutch hits,” Love said.
Post 75 tacked on two unearned runs in the fifth to put the game out of Westport’s reach. Dickson singled home Tyler LeMay, who had reached base on a one-out error, and Cardi’s groundout scored Cal Pitruzzello.
Right-hander Michael Gaboury got the win in relief of Lenehan. Ryan Hurlbert pitched the seventh for the 75ers.
Pitruzzello reached base three times and scored twice for Middletown. Garofalo had three hits in four at-bats and also scored twice, and Cole Niedmann had two hits. Ryan Famiglietti and LeMay, Middletown’s Nos. 8 and 9 batters scored four of the team’s nine runs.
“We put guys on base tonight,” coach Famiglietti said. “We knew we would hit these guys. Garofalo’s hit was huge and we played another errorless game. It was a good night.”
Drbal singled, scored twice and had three of Westport’s eight stolen bases. Moy drove in three runs for Post 63.
On Tuesday in U17 state tournament play, Middletown will play RCP Post 105 at 5:30 p.m. at Palmer Field.
MIDDLETOWN 9, WESTPORT 5
WESTPORT 201 020 0 — 5 5 1
MIDDLETOWN 003 420 X — 9 12 0
Jack Portman, Alex Cheema (4) and Matt Stone. Sean Lenehan, Michael Gaboury (4), Ryan Hurlbert (7) and Ryan Famiglietti. WP: Gaboury. LP: Portman.