BASEBALL: Arrival of the Jedian! Morales’ two-run single in 7th pushes Maloney past Platt

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MERIDEN — Maloney scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning and ace pitcher Tyler Duffy slammed the door shut in the bottom half as the Spartans defeated Platt, 7-5, under the lights of Ceppa Field on Monday night.

Jedian Morales played the hero. The Maloney senior stepped up to the plate with two outs in the seventh and smacked a two-run single to left field.

The clutch hit broke a 5-5 tie and put the Spartans up to stay on Senior Night in the regular-season finale for both squads.

“That was the biggest hit of my life,” said Morales, who finished 2-for-3. “It was crazy. One of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Maloney finished the regular season at 14-6, with the Class LL state tournament ahead. Platt finished at 6-13, out of postseason contention.

Maloney claimed a season sweep after winning the first meeting,12-2, on April 28. That contest was also played at Ceppa.

In Monday’s rematch, Platt held a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh behind some great pitching in relief by sophomore southpaw Brandon Candelora.

Raf Rodriguez started the Spartan seventh by looping a single to right. His brother Joe Rodriguez followed with a walk to put the tying and go-ahead runs aboard.

After a strikeout, Luis Delgado walked to load the bases. During a David Stimpson at-bat, Candelora uncorked a wild pitch that enabled Raf Rodriguez to score the tying run.

Stimpson was eventually called out looking on a curve ball. That set the state for Morales, who pulled a fastball into left field, scoring the deciding runs.

The game was started by Maloney’s Sam Giacco and Platt’s Ryan Zauner, but neither made it out of the third inning. Duffy and Candelora both finished the game for their respective squads.

Maloney struck first with a run in the top of the first. Duffy led off the game with a walk, one of three he’d draw on the night. The junior swiped second, went to third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Jesus Arraez (1-for-3, 3 RBI)  as the Spartans went up 1-0. 

In the bottom of the first, Platt tied the game with some two-out magic. Jayden Gaither (2-for-4) struck a single to center and came around to score on a deep single by fellow sophomore Hunter Sincovic.

Arraez stung a two-run, two-out single in the second to give the Spartans a 3-1 lead. Maloney loaded the bases on walks to Morales, Griffin Papallo and Duffy. Morales and Papallo scored on Arraez’s single.

Platt answered back with four runs in the bottom of the third to take a 5-3 lead.

All of the damage was done against Giacco. Bruce Candelora walked to start the inning and scored on a throwing error.

Later in the inning, Brandon Candelora hit a fielder’s choice and Gaither slid in safely at home to tie the game, 3-3. Dylan Link put the Panthers on top for the first time of the night, 5-3, with a two-run double.

Duffy was called upon to pitch and he retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Both Duffy and Bruce Candelora quieted the opposing offense until the sixth. That’s when Delgado smacked a solo homer to lead off to close the Spartans to within 5-4. It was Delgado’s fourth round-tripper of the season.

“I just had to do a job,” Delgado said. “I felt I needed to get a ball in play and I did, and it went out.”

Candelora did well to strand two baserunners and keep the Panthers up by a run.

That set up the eventful seventh inning.

Duffy earned the win in relief. The southpaw tossed 4 2/3 hitless innings.

“That velocity kicked up in that last inning,” Maloney coach Ricky Marrero said. “He really came at you and he showed why he Central Connecticut has offered to him and it’s up to him to take it. There are D-I schools looking at him because he’s a special player.”

Duffy surrendered just two walks and fanned nine, including three in the seventh.

“It was pretty electric; I’ve been waiting three years to pitch against them,” Duffy said. “Our bats came together and we took advantage of their little mistakes … It was a very emotional game.”

Candelora tossed five innings of relief, surrendering four runs, four hits, three walks and one hit batter. He piled up 11 strikeouts.

“Candelora was tough and our guys just grinded out at-bats,” Marrero said. “We had some really big hits. Raffy’s hit down the line to start the seventh was a huge hit for us, and before you know it we were off and running. 

“Jedian Morales with a huge swing tonight. He’s been on fire for the last few games. He didn’t start the first 14 games and he may be one of our hottest guys right now. It's a credit to him.”

Marrero said Morales has all of the tools to be a star and would be starting in center field for almost any other team in the state.

“We have Tyler Duffy, who is a really good player in center, and Jedian started the season as a role player, and then we would DH for him,” Marrero said. “Next thing you know, he has the biggest hit our our season right now. Great kid, special.”

There were a lot of festivities prior to the game. Retiring Platt Athletic Director Rich Katz threw out the first pitch and was presented with the Rich Katz Baseball Classic trophy, which will be awarded annually to the winner of the Platt-Maloney game when it is hosted by Platt.

Katz was also rewarded with his retired Platt baseball jersey, No. 25.

And it was Senior Night. The seniors on the Maloney roster are Joe Rodriguez, Sam Giacco, Ian Avery, David Stimpson, Morales, Kyle Valentine, Zachary Burdacki, Ayden Vazquez, Delgado, Griffin Papallo and Arraez.

Bruce Candelora is the lone Panther senior.

“Great game: It was a classic,” Platt coach Bryan McCarty said. “Our kids left it out there. We did everything in our power. We aren’t perfect. This is how our season has been. We are two or three outs from winning games, but we kind of let them on through. We’re learning and grinding, and we will be better for it.

“They fought and we could see a lot of growth from game to game,” McCarthy added. “We were right on the doorstep of making the tournament. Teams are lucky we didn’t get in because we could be a dangerous out from that low seed. The future is really bright. A lot of talented kids who are buying into the system. Their baseball IQ went up a little today.”


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