RIVALRY WEDNESDAY: After two years, Panthers and Spartans renew spring acquaintances on the ballfield

RIVALRY WEDNESDAY: After two years, Panthers and Spartans renew spring acquaintances on the ballfield

MERIDEN — Wednesday is rivalry day in Meriden on the baseball and softball fields.

Weather permitting, Platt and Maloney softball will start the day with a 3:45 first pitch at Platt High School. Then, at 6 p.m., the Silver City baseball rivals will take center stage at Ceppa Field.

All four teams are having strong seasons.

First-year Platt softball coach Jen Duell has her team off to a 5-4 start.

The Panthers have been powered by a pair of sophomores, Emily Hart and Brooklyn Cividanes. Both are off to massive starts to their high school careers after missing their freshmen seasons with the cancelled 2020 campaign.

Hart has excelled in the circle. She’s thrown every inning for Platt this year. She has a 2.50 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 58 innings. She’s allowed 53 hits and 23 walks.

“I can’t complain about 100 strikeouts in nine games by any means,” Duell said Tuesday. “She’s throwing well and some of those hits, if we were a more experienced team, wouldn’t happen.”

Defense has been been the biggest challenge for the Panthers, though Duell said her young team has improved defensively since the beginning of the year.

Platt bats have been able to overcome most defensive shortcomings. The Panthers are hitting .350 as a team and Cividanes has developed as an area standout with prolific power numbers.

The slugger is hitting a team-high .567 and has blasted six homers, which averages out to one every five at-bats. She’s also had four triples, one double and six singles. It all adds up to a 1.470 slugging percentage.

“Her form and technique are phenomenal,” Duell said. “I’ve never seen a more textbook, mechanical swing before. She always puts everything she has behind a swing.”

Tori Talento and Adriana Aponte are having big senior campaigns at the plate. Talento is hitting .441 and Aponte is checking in with a .458 batting average. Both homered in Monday’s 7-1 win over East Hartford.

Hart is hitting .382.

Duell said her team is going to have to be composed to beat Maloney.

“We need to stay calm and collected,” Duell said. “We can’t play Maloney softball; we need to play Platt softball.

“We have to stay focused on how we play our game and not let our mistakes rattle us and play Platt Panther softball and do what we do best.”

Maloney enters the game 9-2 and has been pressuring opponents all season. The Spartans are hitting .319 as a team.

Maddy LaValle, Taylor Trowbridge and Milytza Perez are Maloney’s leading hitters.

LaValle, a junior catcher, is hitting .514 with 17 runs, 11 RBI, six doubles and two homers.

Trowbridge, a senior outfielder, is hitting .500 with 10 runs and 10 RBI.

Perez, the senior pitcher, is hitting .405 with 18 runs, 12 RBI, five doubles and two triples and two homers.

Freshman Morgan Pelletier is the No. 4 hitter. She’s hitting .323 with two homers and two triples.

Perez has a 9-2 record in the circle with a 3.40 ERA.

“I like where we are as a team,” Maloney coach Scott Aresco said. “Offensively, we’ve really come around. Mel has been pitching great.

“Platt has some powerful hitters that can change the game on one swing and we will do our best to stop that,” Aresco added. “We will see what happens. A lot of girls will be playing in their first Platt-Maloney game ever and there will be nerves. It will be an interesting game.”

Aresco said Perez has had some big games this spring.

“When she hits her spots, she’s very effective,” Aresco said. “At times, she has struggled and will walk a few batters and miss spots. When she’s good, she’s really good. We will need one of those performances on Wednesday.”

Aresco said his team will put the ball in play and be aggressive at the plate.

“I’m very happy we are 9-2,” Aresco said. “Having Morgan back gives us a good stick in the No. 4 spot. Every time she hits the ball, she hits it hard. She’s the biggest, strongest kid on the team. I like to see the ball come off of her bat.”

On the baseball diamond, Maloney enters the rivalry contest at 7-3, but lost a heart-breaker at Tolland on Monday that ended on a walkoff error. Ryan Killeen threw a complete game for the Spartans in defeat.

“I guess it’s a good thing to be 7-3 at the halfway point and be disappointed; I hate losing.,” Maloney coach Ricky Marrero said. “It’s been a really good season so far. Our guys have worked really hard in the offseason. We have eight seniors that have been chomping at the bit to play baseball for the last two years.

“We’ve been swinging the bats and have made plays. I’m proud of the way we’ve played through 10 games.”

Maloney has been hitting the ball hard. The Spartans entered the week with a .298 team batting average.

They are paced by senior Kam Hartenstein, who is hitting a team-high .470. He had three of Maloney’s four hits against Tolland on Monday.

“He’s ripping the cover off the ball,” Marrero said. “He’s a hitting machine.”

Rafael Rodriguez is impressing as a freshman outfielder. He is hitting .360.

Other top hitters have been senior Evan Cordero (.380), sophomore Joziah Gonzalez (.364) and senior Evan Avery (.323).

“As a team, we are doing some damage to the baseball,” Marrero said. “We had a stretch of three games where we had 42 hits. We’ve done a good job squaring up the baseball.

“Our team is resilient,” Marrero added. “We have a bad habit of giving up some runs early and we usually fight and claw to get back. That has a lot to do with our senior leadership.”

Maloney’s top two pitchers have been Avery (3-0) and John Vumback (3-1).

Vumback will be getting the ball on Wednesday.

“He’s been as good as advertised,” Marrero said. “Platt is solid and emotions will be high. There was no Platt-Maloney game last year and this game means a lot to these kids and to play under the lights of Ceppa Field is special.”

Tonight will mark Marrero’s first game against one of his former Platt teammates, first-year Panthers coach Bryan McCarty. McCarty graduated from Platt in 1991 and Marrero in 1992.

“He was a quality teammate and we had some success,” Marrero said. “We won our league three years in a row.”

Platt baseball enters 5-6 and will pitch ace Brandon Cahill. The junior right-hander has a 4-1 record on the season with a sub-4.00 ERA.

McCarty said the Panthers have had a different standout every game.

Platt’s offensive leaders are Trent D’aniello (.351, 15 runs), Matt Merrigan (.353, 6 stolen bases), Ommy Velez (.385, 17 RBI), A.J. Romano (.333) and Cahill (.343).

The team batting average is .287.

“I’m excited about the season,” McCarty said. “The kids are working hard. We had a dip for four games, but we were competitively in two of them. I’m really impressed with our composure. We’ve had a lot of adversity with a lot of new players on the varsity team. They are out there battling. That’s all you can ask for.”

McCarty said his Panthers need to play a clean, crisp game to beat Maloney.

“I have a lot of respect for Maloney,” McCarty said. “I coached a lot of those kids. We are going to have to make the plays. I feel we have the right guy on the mound and the bats are going in the right direction.”

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