Middletown Post 75's Alex Mach (left) and Rocky Hill's Ben Centurelli put on a brilliant pitching show at Palmer Field as Middletown defeated RCP 1-0 on June 28.
Middletown Post 75 defeated Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland (RCP) twice last week, winning both home-and-away games by a single run, yet each contests was memorable for different reasons.
Enter last week, the local 19U American Legion juggernauts were both undefeated and were the last two teams in Zone 3 without a loss
On Tuesday, June 28, Middletown won 1-0 on a dramatic walk-off at Palmer Field.
Facing two outs in the bottom of the 7th inning, A.J. Quinn connected on a signal up the middle, allowing Spencer Misenti to score from second base.
Quinn’s grounder towards second base was snagged by diving shortstop Vik Vakati, but Middletown head coach Danny Botti motioned for Misenti to round third and head home for the game-winner.
“I’m not going to lie, I thought that ball was through, but Vik made a great play” said Botti. “It was a good thing that Spencer never stopped running. He was running hard the entire time.”
After rounding third, Misenti sprinted towards home before doing a superman dive and tagging the plate with his left hand.
“I was looking at Danny the whole way coming to third base and he was waving me through,” recalled Misenti. “I just figured the ball got through in the middle. I just put my head down and ran.”
The dramatic walk-off ended an incredible duel between two of the best pitchers in the league.
Middletown’s Alex Mach, who just finished his freshman season at UConn - Avery Point, outlasted Ben Centurelli (Rocky Hill) to earn the win.
Botti credited Mach for battling through some tough spots against RCP’s loaded line up, adding, “They did a really good job, but he did a better job.”
Each pitcher went the entire way, yet worked differently.
Mach struck out six with his impressive fastball, which was clocked at 89 miles per hour, and Centurelli used a variety of pitches to methodically fan a handful of batters.
RCP, who entered with a record of 13-0, had several chances throughout the night but left six base runners stranded. Each time an RCP player got on base, Middletown’s infield would rise to the occasion, coming up with three double plays to end the tops of three separate innings.
The infield of Ryan Michaud (1st base), Luke Weisenberg (2nd base), Tyler Powell (3rd base), and Colin Loria (shortstop) each contributed to the success.
“The best thing about Legion is guys coming together from different schools and learning to play together,” Botti said of his opportunistic infield.
Because of the significance of the game, Botti said that his team had a little extra pep in their step prior to the game and Misenti agreed, adding, “RCP has been rivals for us ever since I started playing and it’s always great to beat them on our home turf.”
Two days later (June 30), Middletown jumped out to a four-run lead before having to hold off a late charge from RCP to win 5-4 at Cromwell High School.
Unlike the first meeting, each team took advantage of scoring opportunities and Middletown’s first run came following a controversial call.
In the second inning, Weisenberg singled to send Ryan Quinn to third. During the play, Quinn was running from first to second base when second baseman Elias Deleon came up to field a short grounder and the two nearly collided, which could have been called interference.
However, after a discussion between the umpires, the play stood and the ensuing batter was A.J. Quinn, who singled to send home Ryan, his brother.
RCP head coach Pat Sirois believed the call should have gone the other way but made no excuses following the game.
“First and foremost, it never comes down to the umpire. I think we made four or five physical or mental errors between then and now,” Sirois said of his message to his team after the game. “Even if there is a questionable call, they should not have had five on the board because we could have prevented them from scoring more than we did.”
Middletown scored four in the top of the 5th, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Misenti, who connected on a total of six hits and had three RBIs in the two wins.
Trailing by three runs and facing two out in the bottom of the 7th, RCP made it interesting after Brendan Whalen connected on a short bloop hit down the right field line to reach base.
The home team then loaded the bases and a single by Vakati drove home Whalen and Tyler Carlstrom before Middletown pitcher Tiernan Powers closed the game by striking out Deleon.
Powers, who pitched all seven innings and struck out eight, was cool as a cucumber with the bases loaded in the 7th.
“I wasn’t too rattled by the hits,” said Powers, who credited the guys behind him for having his back. “That stuff happens.”
Botti said it was Power’s game to win or lose and the thought of relieving him out never crossed his mind.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Botti said of Powers, who also plays for UConn- Avery Point. “Obviously when you’re facing a really good team, that is grinding you for seven innings, he got a little tired towards the end but he hunkered down and did a really good job and got the win.”
Misenti had three total hits and Jon Hosney added two in the win, which improved Middletown to 13-0.
“It’s huge,” Powers said of the pair of wins over RCP. ”It should just fire us up for the rest of the season and the playoffs too.”
Errors also hurt RCP, who dropped to 13-2 with the loss.
Sirois said that he had different feelings towards the two losses to Middletown. He said the first loss was a “turn the page” game but he was disappointed with how the team responded after the first loss.
“We were a little bit too comfortable, even after a loss. I thought we felt too comfortable tonight like we were just going to bounce back and they proved to us that we can’t do that against them. It’s a reality check for us,” said Sirois. “It doesn’t mean that we are going to make drastic changes, it just means that we’re going to change the mindset with the little things. Things like pregame, warming up harder, and staying mentally focused on the bench.”
Middletown closed the week by splitting a double-header against Northeast on July 1. They won the first game 7-1 before suffering their first loss of the season (8-7) in nightcap, still finishing the week with the zone’s best overall record at 14-1.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin