Pictured: After scoring Middletown’s first run of the game, Ryan Quinn (right) is greeted by his younger brother, A.J., at the plate. (Photo by Paul Augeri)
By Marc Silvestrini
HIGGANUM – After a couple of rough seasons, Middletown High’s new baseball coach Dan Botti was hoping that a good showing in the season opener Saturday against Haddam-Killingworth, a perennially strong club, would serve notice that the Blue Dragons program is back on the right track.
He got his wish. Middletown cruised to an 11-2 win in Botti’s debut behind the pitching of Dan Lapham and a 12-hit attack.
Lapham, who had a no-hitter going through 4 1/3 innings, pitched five innings of two-hit, one-run ball while the Dragons’ offense broke open what had been a tight game through the first four innings with three runs in the fifth frame and seven more in the sixth.
“We hit the ball pretty well against some good pitching today,” Botti said. “I thought we had some really good at bats from one through nine (in the batting order) and got a lot of help from the three sophomores (A.J. Quinn, Corey Turcotte and Luke Weisenberg), who were the last three batters in our lineup.
“I also thought Lapham and Ryan Quinn were phenomenal today.”
Ryan Quinn went 3 for 4 with a pair of triples, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Besides limiting the Cougars to two hits over his five innings of work, Lapham also had two hits, including a double, and an RBI.
Lapham, who fanned four while issuing six walks, said he thought he threw the ball well but conceded that he “walked too many guys.”
“I threw mostly fastballs today,” he said. “H-K was having some trouble hitting that pitch so I just kept throwing it.”
Ryan Quinn said he felt comfortable and confident at the plate.
“I was seeing the ball really well today,” he said. “It felt like I could hit just about anything they threw up there.”
Meanwhile, leadoff hitter Tyler Powell chipped in with two hits, two runs scored, a ribbie and a stolen base while the three aforementioned sophomores combined for three hits, a ribbie and three runs scored.
Lapham’s double in the top of the fourth plated Ryan Quinn and broke a scoreless tie. Singles by Turcotte and Weisenberg, a pair of walks and two H-K errors led to three unearned runs in the top of the fifth to pad the Middletown lead to 4-0 before a single by Blake Kamoen drove in Alex Sheehan, who had doubled, to make it 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth.
Middletown then blew the game wide open with its seven-run sixth. Caleb Reed had a two-run single in the big inning while Powell, Ryan Quinn and Eric Wilson all delivered run-scoring singles and Turcotte added a sacrifice fly.
With Lapham having given way to relief pitcher Reed in the last of the sixth, Sheehan capped the day’s scoring with a single that scored Caden Civiello with the Cougars’ second run. Reed pitched two full innings, yielding one run on one hit, fanning one and walking two.
Cougars starter Callen Powers had a strong outing, shutting out the Dragons through three innings before giving up a run in the fourth and three unearned runs in the fifth. In all, he gave up six hits and four runs, only one of which was earned, in 4 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking no one.
Sheehan was the most effective of the three H-K relievers, giving up two hits and an unearned run in an inning and two-thirds, fanning three and walking two.
Sheehan was also the most effective H-K hitter, going 2 for 2 with a double, a pair of walks, a run scored, an RBI and a stolen base. Kamoen chipped in with the only other Cougar hit, a pair of walks, an RBI and a stolen base.
“We just didn’t hit the ball today,” Cougars coach Mark Brookes said. “We drew some walks and had some chances early in the game, but we could never get that big hit with runners on base that might have made the game a little closer.”
“We also made too many mental and physical mistakes today,” he said, referring to the three errors and four unearned runs the Cougars gave up. “We’re a young team and we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
The Cougars may be young, but Botti believes his club won a game Saturday against a “really good baseball team.”
“For us to come here and win a game against a tremendous program like H-K is a big step for us,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing that says a lot about what we’re trying to build here.”
Middletown will open its home schedule on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a game against Bloomfield/AAE/Bulkeley, a Hartford area co-op team, at Palmer Field. H-K travels to North Branford on Monday for a 4pm Shoreline Conference game.
Middletown…000 137 0–11 12 0
Haddam-Kill..000 011 0–2 3 3
Batteries: M–Lapham, Reed (6) and A.J. Quinn; HK–Powers, Erskine (5), Blade (6), Sheehan (6) and Glynn. WP: Lapham; LP: Powers; 2B: M–Lapham; HK–Sheehan. 3B: M–Ryan Quinn (2).