Pictured: Palmer Dogs reliever Noah Kleczkowski (center) is congratulated by his teammates after preserving starter Ryan Conklin 6-0 victory over Ellington Wednesday at Palmer Field. The two pitchers surrendered only three hits on the night.

By Marc Silvestrini

MIDDLETOWN – Owen Clancy, an outfielder/first baseman for Middletown’s entry in the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association’s 19-and-under division, has been tinkering with the way he grips the bat for the past couple of days.

Whatever changes he made produced positive results in Wednesday night’s game against Enfield.

Clancy ripped two hard-hit, run-scoring singles at Palmer Field to back the outstanding pitching of Ryan Conklin and Noah Kleczkowski in a 6-0 Middletown win over Enfield.

“I’ve been making some adjustments over the past week – mostly with the placement of my hands – and right now I feel good up there,” Clancy said. “I’m hitting it pretty good right now.”

Clancy plated the first run of the game with a bases-loaded line drive single off the glove of Enfield pitcher Devin Marcotte in the bottom of the fourth that helped trigger a five-run rally. An inning later, he laced a bullet to center field that scored Frank Romano with Middletown’s sixth and final run of the game.

Middletown, also known as the Palmer Dogs, improved its record to 6-5 and keeps its slight but still viable playoff hopes alive with seven games left on its schedule.

The Dogs, who are composed of present and former members of the Middletown, Vinal Tech, Xavier, Coginchaug and Haddam-Killingworth high school programs, plays in CTEBA’s Division 3. They are currently tied for fourth in the division, half a game behind TriCounty and two games behind second-place Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland.

CTEBA is a temporary, American Legion-like league that is filling the void created by the legion’s decision to cancel its season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Conklin, Middletown’s left-handed starter, was close to untouchable, allowing two hits, striking out five and walking only one in 5 1/3 innings of work. At one point, he retired 13 Enfield batters in a row.

“My slider was really working tonight, that was definitely my best pitch,” he said. “I was very comfortable out there, I felt good. Everything was working.”

When Conklin’s pitch count reached 78 with one out in the sixth, coach Kyle Farrell summoned Kleczkowski, who continued to keep Enfield off balance and off the scoreboard, allowing just one hit in 1 2/3 innings.

“Our pitching was outstanding tonight,” Farrell conceded. “Conklin pitched about as well as I’ve ever seen him pitch. He was completely dominant tonight. And Kleczkowski did a great job in relief.”

Farrell also said he was pleased with the patience his hitters exhibited and the way they “worked a lot of deep counts.”

“I thought we played a very good all-around game tonight,” he said. “Everybody, one through nine, made a contribution.”

The decisive five-run fourth was greatly aided by Marcotte’s sudden inability to find the plate. He walked the first three Middletown batters to load the bases with none out and Clancy due at the plate.

Clancy’s wicked shot off Marcotte’s glove brought D.J. Arnold across with the game’s first run, leaving the bases loaded. Pinch hitter Kobe Watanabe then drew a walk, forcing home Romano with the second run and, one out later, Greyson Pizzonia beat out a hard shot to deep short that drove in Nico Kulpik for a 3-0 advantage.

An infield error and a wild pitch then allowed the final two runs of the inning to score.

Aside from Clancy’s pair of RBI singles and Pizzonia’s RBI hit, Mike Garofalo, Kulpik and Watanabe also contributed base hits to Middletown’s six-hit attack. Matt Voneisgen, Justin Chapin and Marcotte collected Enfield’s three hits.

Middletown and Enfield will face each other again on Friday at Powder Hollow Field in Enfield at 5:45 p.m.

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