Pictured: Nathan Wanderman had an altogether different view at Palmer Field on Monday as he pitched Tri-County to a 4-2 win over Middletown.
By Marc Silvestrini
MIDDLETOWN — Twelve days ago, Nathan Wanderman and a few of his Nathan Hale-Ray High School teammates came to Palmer Field to watch Coginchaug, a team from the Noises’ own Shoreline Conference, win the CIAC Class S title.
Two days ago, Wanderman, who will be entering his senior year at Hale-Ray next fall, was a member of Tri-County’s Under 17 American Legion team.
On Wednesday night, Wanderman was back at Palmer Field as the starting pitcher for Tri-County’s Under 19 Legion team, having just been called up from the Under 17 team. Moreover, he was facing a Middletown team that included nine members of that championship Coginchaug team.
“We were hoping to get three, maybe four, decent innings out of him,” Tri-County coach Len Lampugnale said. “After all, he was going against some good, older hitters.”
Wanderman calmly delivered six quality innings of three-hit baseball in leading Tri-County to a 4-2 Zone 3 win over Post 75 on Wednesday.
“It was kind of special to be pitching against those guys tonight, having just watched (some of) them win the state championship,” Wanderman said, adding that his two-seam fastball “was really cutting tonight” and was his most effective pitch.
“I know I’m not a big strikeout pitcher,” he said. “But I also know I have a great fielding team behind me, so I just need to throw strikes and let the guys behind me make plays.”
The win, Tri-County’s third straight, improves their record to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in Zone 3 play. Middletown fell to 4-3 overall and 3-3 in Zone 3.
Tri-County, a team that includes four East Haddam/Moodus residents and one from East Hampton, primarily draws its players from Marlborough, Hebron and Lebanon.
The visitors scored single runs in each of the first three innings off Middletown starter Brent Gilson. Mike Poncini scored the first run when he singled, stole second, reached third on an infield out and came home on a two-out error to give the visitors a quick 1-0 lead.
Catcher Josh Person scored the game’s second run when he reached first on a two-out, infield single in the top of the second and scored ahead of Poncini’s RBI-triple to deep center.
Three straight Tri-County singles in the third loaded the bases and an error on what could have been a double play grounder enabled the visitors to build their lead to 3-0 in the third.
“They just outplayed us tonight,” said Middletown coach Dan Botti. “They played with a lot more energy; they were buzzing around the field while we were kind of slow and lifeless. We just didn’t make a good enough effort.
“Brent did a nice job for us,” he added, “but we didn’t make all the plays behind him.”
Gilson and relief pitcher Hugh Barrett were plagued by five errors, which played significant roles in three of Tri-City’s four runs. Gilson allowed eight hits and three runs, two of which were earned, over five innings of work, while Barrett allowed two hits and one unearned run over two innings.
Trailing 3-0, Middletown finally broke through against Wanderman in its half of the fourth inning. Ryan Michaud led off by drawing a walk, but was forced at second on Barrett’s fielder’s choice ground ball. Owen Clancy then came up with the 75ers’ first hit of the game — a long double smashed to deep left – that placed runners at second and third.
One out later, Ryan Quinn singled sharply off the shortstop’s glove to plate both Barrett and Clancy, slicing Tri-City’s lead to 3-2.
Two more Middletown errors helped the visitors add an insurance run in the seventh. Thomas Lunt entered the game in relief of Wanderman to close out the 75ers with a perfect seventh inning.
Four Tri-City batters — Josh Person, his brother Jonah, Ponsini and Daylan Griffin — collected two hits apiece for Tri-County, while Clancy, Quinn and Tiernan Powers accounted for the three Post 75 hits.
“Middletown is a good team; they usually swing the bats much better than that,” Lampugnale said. “But we had some timely hitting tonight, at least early in the game, and our starting pitcher did a great job in his first game on the Under 19 team.
“He came in and just threw strikes and we made some plays behind him.”
All of which made Wanderman’s second trip to Palmer Field in June a lot more fun than his first.
Tri-County…..111 000 1–4 10 1
Middletown..000 200 0–2 3 5
Batteries: TC–Wanderman, Lunt (7) and Josh Person; M–Gilson, Barrett (6) and Garofalo. WP: Wanderman; LP: Gilson; Save: Lunt. 2B: TC–Jonah Person; M–Clancy; 3B: TC–Poncini. Records: Tri-City 5-2, 3-2; Middletown 4-3, 3-3.