MERIDEN — Nobody was more surprised than Mike Charest as he approached a post-game huddle in front of the Maloney dugout.
One fact was certain: Charest had just tossed a complete game in a memorable pitcher’s duel against Jason Sullivan and Joe Gulino enjoyed a perfect evening at the plate as the Spartans defeated Platt, 4-1, in the first meeting of the season between the CCC South-White Division rivals Saturday in a steady drizzle at Ceppa Field.
The question at hand concerned a play in the Platt fifth.
The Panthers trailed 2-1 with two out and nobody on base when Dylan Dudley tapped a ball toward third base. Jeff Massicotte did not field it cleanly. Dudley runs well and reached without a throw. Was it a hit or was it an error? The answer in a regular season high school game can only come from the home scorer, who jotted it down as an error.
Howie Hewitt conferred with his assistant Rob Tencza. They both nodded. Error, it was. Congratulations, Mike.
“Awesome,” Charest said. “I honestly was just concentrating on get the next batter on every at-bat. It paid off for me at the end.”
“God, I’m just speechless,” he added, “It’s my first one so I’m pretty excited right now.”
Charest (2-3) had a one-hitter on April 11 in the second game of the season on the road against Manchester. The no-no slipped away from him late in the game. This one may have slipped as it rolled across the wet infield but Charest nailed it down without the usual tension that accompanies the final frame of such gems.
“He’s very capable,” Maloney coach Howie Hewitt said. “We need him to come around on the mound and at bat. Nobody has worked harder to prepare himself before the season or during the season. Every day he’s working his rear end off. The other day, he and a couple of the other guys stayed for an hour extra after everybody went home so I’m happy for him.”
Charest walked four and struck out seven. He walked the first two hitters of the game, then retired 14 in a row before Dudley’s roller to third. He walked C.J. Febles but fanned Drew Abrahante to end the inning. An error by the catcher on a topper by Owen O’Keefe in front of the plate extended the Platt seventh. Dudley drew a walk but Charest caught Febles looking to end the game.
Hewitt was unable to put it in historical perspective without checking the record.
“We may not have ever had one before. I think Brian Robinson threw one but that was a long time ago,” Hewitt said. “Charlie [Hesseltine] never did. Ty [Bongiovanni] never did. They just won every game they pitched.”
The two first-inning walks by Mikey Rojas and Cameron Coon led to the Platt run. Coon fell behind 0-2 but battled Charest through a 10-pitch at-bat and watched a couple tight sliders slip just outside the zone as the game began in shaky fashion for the Spartans (4-6, 2-3).
Rojas stole second and went to third on a wild pitch during Coon’s at-bat. Coon was caught by Charest as he tried to steal second for the inning’s first out.
Devyn McCarty lifted a sacrifice fly to right to give the Panthers (8-5, 4-2) the lead, but that was the extent of their scoring.
“[Charest] does a great job every time he faces us,” Platt coach Tim Redican said. “He doesn’t have his best stuff early so it was important for us to jump on him early but his stuff gets better as the game goes. He makes it real tough. They made the plays, we didn’t.”
Maloney took the lead for good against Sullivan (2-2) in the third.
Aidan Clancy drew a one-out walk. With two down, Sebby Grignano hit a drive that caromed off the left fielder’s glove for an error, enabling Clancy to score from first. Grignano, perched at second after the miscue, pulled into third on a passed ball. Gulino (2-for-2, 2 RBI) drilled a clean single to left for a 2-1 Maloney edge.
Errors continue to plague the Panthers, who have now allowed 41 unearned runs on the season. Nine have come at Sullivan’s expense.
Maloney tacked on a run in the fifth.
Nick Boehler hit a looping pop that found turf between the pitcher’s mound and shortstop. He took second on a walk to Grignano and both moved up on a wild pitch. Gulino worked the count full and launched a sacrifice fly.
“That was the biggest at-bat,” Hewitt said. “He battled 2-2, 3-2 and gets the sacrifice fly. That’s huge in a game like this.”
Maloney’s final run came in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Joe Golebiewski was hit by a pitch with one out. Massicotte lined a single to center sending Goliebiewski to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run play. Clancy drove in the run with a sharp single to left.
Sullivan went the distance, allowed just five hits and a walk while striking out three.
“He was great. We can’t ask for more,” Redican said. “Where he got hurt is when he fell behind in the count. You can go 1-0 but he got hurt when he went behind 3-1, 2-0. When he’s having a good time out there, you could see it on his face. He’s tough to beat.”
The game had been postponed twice prior to sneaking it in between raindrops Saturday. Hewitt praised the effort of head groundskeeper John Gemmel for neutralizing the effects of all the recent rain to get the game in.
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