Pictured: Brayden Sparaco pitched five scoreless innings in Valley’s win over host Cromwell. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

CROMWELL — Junior right-hander Brayden Sparaco and senior southpaw James Marsden combined on a four-hitter and Colin Carver provided the biggest hit of the game to lead Valley Regional to a 1-0 win over Cromwell on Monday.

Carver’s single through the right side in the fourth inning off Cromwell starter Zach Zajac scored Drew Salbinski with the game-deciding run at Fran Monnes Field as the Warriors sewed up their third straight Shoreline Conference win to start the season.

Sparaco allowed four hits and four walks while striking out eight for the win, while Marsden recorded the last six outs for the save.

After closing out Cromwell, James Marsden was a popular guy with his teammates Monday. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

After a 1-2-3 sixth, Marsden created trouble for himself when he hit Ethan Ucol on an 0-2 pitch leading off the seventh. But the Warriors turned a 4-6-3 double play to give him a lift, and in turn he got Ian McMillan to ground out to second to secure the win.

“I don’t remember winning up here at Cromwell since I’ve been coach,” Valley’s Brian Drinkard said after the game. “It feels good. It’s all about these kids, man. They got the win. They battled.”

The Warriors were poised to widen their lead with two on and one out in the top of the seventh against Cromwell reliever Connor Slifer, but the Panthers came up with two terrific defensive plays. McMillan caught up to a wind-blown drive in left-center off the bat of Sam Hutchinson for the second out, and shortstop Elias DeLeon snared a sinking line drive by Sparaco to end the threat.

“We hit some sharp balls late in the game and (Cromwell) made some nice leather to take away some hits,” Drinkard said. “We couldn’t get anything more than one, but thank God that’s all we needed.”

Cromwell’s Ian McMillan takes a rip at a pitch in the fifth inning of Monday’s game at Fran Monnes Field. (Photo by Paul Augeri)

Zajac, Cromwell’s ace, started and pitched four innings, allowing an earned run on three hits with six strikeouts. He walked only one, but the leadoff pass to Salbinski came back to haunt him. Salbinski stole second, one of five steals for Valley on Monday, moved to third on Marsden’s groundout to the right side and scored on Carver’s ensuing hit.

Cromwell left two runners on in the first, second and fifth innings and couldn’t drive in a runner from third on three occasions.

“Just didn’t get the big hit,” Cromwell coach Christian Budzik said.

McMillan, UCol and Nick Soignoli had singles for the Panthers and DeLeon had a double.

Drinkard’s big takeaway from the win was Marsden, who lost his junior season to an arm injury. But the three-sport athlete has continued in his progression to return to a regular workload and it showed Monday as he mixed pitches and moved the ball around in his longest outing of 2022.

“James came in today and he was sharp,” Drinkard said. “That’s the most important thing for us today. If that kid’s going to be sharp, then we’re for real. Our plan is to have him ready for playoff baseball. Today was a big step forward. He’s thrown an inning in all three of our games. He struggled in the first game, he was a little better in the second game. He hasn’t pitched in two years. He doesn’t throw hard, but has a lot of movement on the ball.”

Valley Regional..000 100 0–1 4 1
Cromwell…………000 000 0–0 4 1

Batteries: VR–Sparaco, Marsden (6) and Erwin; C–Zajac, Slifer (5) and Patrick. WP: Sparaco; LP: Zajac; S: Marsden. 2B: C–DeLeon.

In other baseball games Monday:

Haddam-Killingworth 10, East Hampton 5: H-K broke open a 3-3 game with 5 runs in the fourth and 2 more in the fifth to beat the Bellringers (1-2) in Shoreline play. Liam Gordon struck out 9 to improve his record to 2-0. Nick Glynn and Dylan Coon had a hit and 2 RBIs for the Cougars (2-2) and Alex Sheehan added 2 hits. Javy Diaz had 2 hits for East Hampton. Carter Scovill started for the Bellringers.

North Branford 6, Morgan 2: Cam Garrett went the distance for the T-Birds, allowing 2 earned runs on 3 hits with 1 walk and 7 strikeouts. Ryan Michonski led North Branford’s offense with 3 hits. Bailey Goss took the loss for Morgan. Garret Garbinski, Sean Green, and Brady Fritz each had a hit for the Huskies.

Softball

Cromwell 10, Valley Regional 1: Jamie Anderson went 4 for 5, Madison Tessmer homered and drove in 3 runs and Lily Kenney struck out 10 to lead the Panthers to a 5-0 start on the season. Kenney and Victoria Wiatrak had 3 hits apiece. Malena Signorello was 2 for 4 with a home run and Grace McFarlin had 2 hits as the Panthers collected 17 hits against the Warriors. Samantha Pierce had 2 hits and an RBI to lead Valley (1-3). Kenney allowed 7 hits, 1 earned run and no walks.

Haddam-Killingworth 11, East Hampton 2: The Cougars scored 5 runs in the fifth inning and 4 in the sixth to pull away and improve to 5-0. Kaleigh Bodak, who hit a 2-run homer in the sixth, pitched 5 scoreless innings, striking out 7 and allowing just 4 hits. Bella La Torre had 2 doubles and a sac fly to drive in 5 runs, while Chey LaTouche had 2 hits and scored 3 runs. Ivy McNiel picked up 3 hits and pitched the final two innings. Olivia DeMartino had a 2-run triple for East Hampton (0-3).

Boys Golf

Old Saybrook 182, Haddam-Killingworth 192
At Fenwick Golf Course, Old Saybrook (non-Shoreline match)

Medalist: Drew Kulmann, Old Saybrook, 42.
Other Old Saybrook scorers: Connor Cassella 49, Jacob Speed 47, Rylan Murphy 44
H-K scorers: Andrew Fleig 46, Gabe Barile 48, Jacob Maier 52, Declan Kessler 46

Morgan 191, Coginchaug 217
At Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

Medalist: Colin Murphy, Coginchaug, 42
Morgan scorers: Jack Nye 45, Nick Schimdt 47, CJ Giuleino 48, Drew Nye 51
Other Coginchaug scorers: AJ Turman 53, Carson Sewell 60, Declan Kelly 62

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