MERIDEN — Maloney baseball stayed hot with a 9-1 victory over CCC South foe Middletown at Ed Zajac Field on a warm Friday afternoon.
The Spartans, 10-6 overall and 6-3 in the South, used rallies in the third and fifth innings to earn their fifth straight victory.
“We’re rolling and the guys are swinging the bats really well,” Maloney coach Ricky Marrero said. “We are starting to peak right now. We’ve won five in a row and beat three Top 20 teams in a row. We are just getting better and better.”
Sophomore lefty Tyler Duffy (4-1) was on his game in a complete-game effort. The southpaw allowed one run on four hits, one walk and one hit batter. He fanned six.
Middletown (7-7, 3-4 CCC South) did strike first with a run in the top of the first inning. Ryan Quinn tripled to the right field fence and scored on a ground out by Tyler Powell.
In the bottom half, Duffy stroked a liner to right that appeared to have one-hopped the right fielder but was ruled a catch. The call hurt Maloney as fellow sophomore Raf Rodriguez slugged a line drive double to the left field fence and was left stranded.
Baseball, though, has a way of evening out. Duffy was redeemed with a fortunate infield single off the Middletowh pitcher’s glove with one out in the third. He scored Maloney’s first run of the game on a booming standup double by junior Joe Rodriguez (2-for-4), a hit that ignited the Maloney offense.
“I was just trying to do my part and try to get my team up and get everyone going as a team,” Joe Rodriguez said. “When we all start going, we are tough to beat. We are just playing great team ball. That’s what we preach every day in practice and we are trying to keep it up.”
Raf Rodriguez (2-for-3, IBB) connected on his second double of the game to easily score his older brother. This was a ground-rule double for the sophomore.
Ryan Killeen capped the rally with a shot down the right field line to score Raf Rodriguez as the home team went up 3-1.
Duffy put up a shutdown inning after his offense came through. The hurler got some help from his defense, including a spectacular play at second base by Kyle Valentine. The junior ranged to his right and went on a full body dive on a grounder off the bat of Powell. Valentine threw on to first to complete the play and drew a roar from the Maloney dugout.
Duffy was able to stay ahead of hitters all game. He spotted his curve, change and fastball.
“It’s easier to pitch knowing I have a defense behind me that’s making the plays,” Duffy said. “I feel our team is confident on the field and hitting. It makes it easier to pitch. Our bats have been hot, defense has been solid and everyone has done their jobs.”
The Spartans tacked on to their lead in the fourth as five batters reached and scored.
The rally was ignited by a trio of Blue Dragon miscues. After David Stimpson started the inning with a double, Joziah Gonzalez reached on an infield error to set up first and third with no outs.
On an infield grounder by Valentine, Stimpson was caught straying too far off third base. Caught in a rundown, Stimpson forced another Middletown throwing error. The ball went out of play, allowing Stimpson and Gonzalez to score to make it 5-1.
Griffin Papallo (2-for-3) singled to score Valentine for a 6-1 lead. Joe Rodriguez smacked a RBI double scoring Papallo to make it 7-1. Rodriguez, in turn, scored on a misplayed fly ball off the bat of Killeen as Maloney’s lead expanded to 8-1 after fourth innings.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well for the better part of five games,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t surprised we swung the bats well. We expect to swing it well.
“Tyler Duffy was on the mound and was lights out again,” Marrero added. “We’ve been doing everything we wanted to do … We’ve turned into who we were during this streak. I knew we could hit, but we are really clicking it right now. They look good.”
The Maloney offense was back at it again in the fifth. Gonzalez was plunked by a pitch to start the inning, swiped second and scored on a single up the middle by Papallo as Maloney went up 9-1.
Duffy allowed single baserunners in the final three innings, but no real threats. The sophomore was in charge throughout.