MERIDEN — The Platt High School baseball team’s season came to a tough end on Tuesday as the No. 16 Panthers fell 4-2 to No. 17 Stratford in the first round of the Class L state tournament at a rain-soaked Ceppa Field.
For five innings, it looked like the Panthers (12-9) would be on the winning end of a fantastic pitchers’ duel. They were leading 2-0. Stratford, however, was able to get to Platt starting pitcher Joe Salafia in the top half of the sixth, scoring three runs and taking the lead for good.
The big blow was a two-run double by senior centerfielder Braydon Seaburg.
“I was proud of them,” Platt head coach Tim Redican said. “We gave them a couple baserunners in (the sixth inning). Their best player (Seaburg) beat us on a pitch that was a good pitch and he drove it.”
The Red Devils (13-8) were rather quiet until the sixth, managing just six baserunners in the first five innings.
“(Salafia) had us; he was throwing zeroes on us,” Stratford head coach Mick Buckmir said. “I think at one point we only had three hits and no runs. He was doing a hell of a job.”
Salafia walked senior second basemen Logan Zezima to open the sixth and proceeded to load the bases with nobody out.
A sacrifice fly by senior first baseman Preston Williams got Stratford on the board, but Salafia settled down to strike out No. 9 hitter Michael D'Aloia before Seaburg came to the plate.
“We scratched away with one on (the sacrifice fly), which kind of gave us the feeling that we could do something,” Buckmir said. “The double by (Seaburg) was huge.”
Salafia escaped the inning without any further damage, but the senior allowed a single to sophomore third baseman Ryan Burlone and a walk to sophomore catcher Anthony Torreso in the seventh, prompting Redican to pull him.
“This was his game,” Redican said of Salafia who came into the game sporting a 4-2 record to go with a 1.98 earned run average. “I had (senior Edisson Ortiz) ready, but this was his last time at Ceppa Field. It was his ball all the way. I had no thoughts of taking him out.”
While Redican did admit that he may have given Salafia too long of a leash in the seventh, Ortiz limited the damage to just one run, which came on an error.
The Panthers got their bats going early in this one with a couple of second-inning triples.
It started with junior catcher Jack Clancy, whose leadoff triple to right set the table for him to score on a wild pitch during junior left fielder Andrew McCarty’s at bat.
McCarty would follow Clancy’s lead, ripping a triple of his own into the right-center gap and eventually scoring on an error by Seaburg with one out.
However, that would be it for the Panthers offensively. Stratford starter Zach Fedak kept them in check the rest of the way.
“We couldn’t piece him together,” Redican said. “Kyle Parmelee gets a big hit to start the fifth and gets to second base, and we couldn’t get him in. That’s the story it’s been for us all season, where when we lose, we have opportunities we just can’t cash in.”
Fedak struck out seven over six and 2/3 innings of work, using a dancing 12-6 curveball to fool several Panthers.
“I was telling (Fedak), ‘fantastic performance,’” Buckmir said. “Under the conditions — on and off rain, muddy, spikes getting clogged up — he threw an excellent game for us. He’s our number one, he’s our senior and he gave up those two runs, but that was it. That’s the sign of a good pitcher. He was a bulldog from there.”
Platt will not get a chance at redemption against top-seed and CCC South-Colonial rival Berlin in the second round. Despite the up-and-down season, Redican said was proud of the way his group battled down the stretch to get a home game in the first round.
“I’m really proud of my seniors,” Redican said. “Joe pitched a great game. He battled and made some great plays in the field. I wish it went the other way, but that’s baseball. (Stratford) was the better team today.”