Pictured: Alex Mach came up big on the mound once again for the 75ers, throwing a three-hitter in a 4-2 win over Northeast in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Palmer Field.

By Paul Augeri

Despite injuries and departures that have threatened to derail Middletown’s season, Post 75 remains in the running for a coveted berth in the upcoming American Legion national regional tournament.

Coach Dan Botti’s squad swept a Saturday doubleheader, beating Northeast 4-2 and 2-1 at Palmer Field, and sits at 10-6 with two Zone 3 games left. The 75ers need to beat Enfield (1-11-1) on Monday and Ellington (11-5) at home on Tuesday. And they also need Windsor Locks/Windsor (10-5) to lose one of its last four zone games to clinch second place.

If those scenarios play out, Middletown and Zone 3 leader RCP (13-2) would compete in the regional tournament and bypass the state tournament. The unusual set-up this year is partly explained here.

If Ellington and Middletown both finish 12-6, Post 75 would advance on a tiebreaker. The 75ers split with RCP; Ellington lost to RCP twice.

“We’re very much alive, which is crazy after all that’s happened,” Botti said. “There are a number of games this season we shouldn’t have lost, so we’re a little lucky to be in this position. I’ve told the guys I’m not telling them about scenarios anymore. ‘Just play every game hard and see what happens.’ We hope take care of business Monday and Tuesday.”

Middletown leaned on its ace, right-hander Alex Mach, in its opener against Northeast. Mach, who will go on to play at UConn-Avery Point, threw a three-hitter with two walks and six strikeouts. Both runs were unearned in his 93-pitch outing.

“He was great again,” said Botti.

Tiernan Powers had a two-run single for Middletown, Ethan Kupec had an RBI hit, Mike Garofalo had a single and Chris Carafeno walked with the bases loaded to highlight the team’s four-run day.

But the win came at a cost. Shortstop Hugh Barrett broke his left wrist on a head-first slide into home – he was the second run to come across on Powers’ hit – and is out for the rest of the summer.

“It was an ugly injury. He dislocated the wrist and broke it,” Botti said. “I feel terrible for him.”

Barrett already was playing through two injuries – a broken knuckle on his right hand and a broken finger on his left hand. But he was back in Saturday’s lineup after missing just one game with the finger injury, filling the void of regular shortstop Colin Loria, who suffered a hip injury in the first game of the summer and re-injured it last week.

“Hugh lost his senior year at Coginchaug (to COVID cancellation) and his spring season at New Hampton (where he was going to play as a postgrad) also was canceled,” Botti said. Barrett’s fall college season at Division III St. Joseph’s of Maine is likely compromised, too.

“I have a lot of respect for him, playing through those injuries. I’m just hoping he has a quick recovery. He gave us all he had,” Botti said. “And Colin, I just want him to come back healthy. His senior year is coming up at Xavier. If he’s not back this summer … we just need to be safe with him.”

In Game 2 Saturday, Powers went six innings for the win, allowing an unearned run in the first inning, and Brent Gilson pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the save after Post 75 took the lead in the sixth.

Ryan Michaud led off with a walk and moved to third when Owen Clancy reached on a bunt. With one out, Michaud beat the throw home on Powers’ safety squeeze to tie it. After Jack Konopka walked, Mach singled to score Clancy with the go-ahead run.

“That was a good comeback win there,” Botti said. “ We were worried about the rain all day but got it in.”

Post 75 played the game with nine available players. Botti lost two players last week, including hard-throwing left-hander and UConn commit Kolby Pascarelli, who left the team. First baseman Michaud played shortstop and Botti filled a spot in the outfield with Ethan Kupec, a regular with the 17U club.

Middletown’s game Monday at Enfield starts at 5:45pm, with Tuesday’s game against Ellington a 7pm first pitch at Palmer.

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