Pictured: Kyleigh Franklin wore the hitting crown and Carly Weisenberg sported the defensive chain with pride after Middletown’s extra-innings win over Berlin.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

MIDDLETOWN — Two of Middletown’s fearless freshman softball players co-authored the team’s winning rally in the bottom of the ninth Monday night.

Carly Weisenberg led off with a drag bunt that she beat out for a hit. The speedster stole second on the first pitch to Kyleigh Franklin, and scored with ease on Franklin’s drive over the head of Berlin center fielder Peyton Nadeau as Middletown beat the Redcoats 5-4 at Pat Kidney Field.

The Blue Dragons improved to 13-2, the second-best record in Class LL behind 13-1 Cheshire, and extended their winning streak to five.

Berlin, which had a 3-run lead early in the game, fell to 10-5.

“What a great night,” said coach Sal Morello, who gritted his teeth through the late innings when Middletown left a runner at third base on three occasions after tying the game at 4 in the fourth inning.

The Blue Dragons wait for Abby Young to touch home plate after she led off the fourth inning with a long home run to left field.

“We found a way to win,” he said. “I’ve been telling these girls all year, ‘Last year we’d probably lose a game like this, and two years ago we’d find a way to lose this game.

“We’re finding ways to win these games. It’s a great win for our kids, a great confidence booster. Just a huge win for them.”

Weisenberg also turned in the defensive play of the night in the sixth inning that prevented Berlin from scoring the go-ahead run.

With two out and Berlin’s Elizabeth Fitzsimmons on second base, two-time All-State catcher Jess Petit pounded a grounder up the middle. Weisenberg knocked the ball down near the bag and came up firing when she realized Simmons was headed for home. Her throw to catcher Abby Young easily beat Fitzsimmons for the third out.

“Berlin was very aggressive with that play and Carly had to throw a strike to the plate,” Morello said. “And she did. It was great execution by us. I would have done the same thing that Berlin did and tried to score. We had to make the play and we did.”

Meanwhile, senior right-hander Angelina Vartuli came out on top in a tremendous battle with Berlin junior right-hander Sara Cugno. Both worked in and out of trouble in the late innings as their offenses failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position.

Vartuli allowed four earned runs on 11 hits, walked six and struck out 17. She allowed an inning’s leadoff batter to reach base seven times, but worked through jams either with belt-high fastballs or the Blue Dragons’ defense making plays.

“Vartuli was something else,” Morello said. “She got herself into some trouble and just got herself out of it. All game, she was something else, the pressure on her. But she found a way to get out of it and give us an opportunity (to win).”

Cugno allowed two earned runs on 11 hits, walked one and struck out eight.

Middletown scored on an error in the first inning, but the early lead evaporated in the second when Fitzsimmons — who had three doubles in the game from the ninth spot in the lineup — doubled home Sara Cugno and Elizabeth Cugno for a 2-1 advantage.

Julia Matan’s double in the third scored Nadeau from first for a 3-1 lead in the third inning, and Fitzsimmons scored in the fourth Petit’s groundout to make it 4-1.

The Blue Dragons cut their deficit to one in the fourth on a solo home run to left by Young and an RBI single by Peyton Morello. Franklin’s sac fly in the fifth scored Weisenberg, who had reached on a 3-base throwing error to start the inning.

Berlin put the leadoff runner on base against Vartuli in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but came up empty each time. The Redcoats had runners on first and second with none out in the seven and ninth. In the ninth, Vartuli got the next three batters by strikeout to end that threat.

“She was very good,” Weisenberg said. “We’re really proud of her shutting down Berlin in those few innings and pulling through.”

Franklin, who is batting better than .500 this season, made solid contact in each of her four plate appearances before coming to bat in the ninth with Weisenberg on.

“I was trying to get the ball to the outfield,” she said. “I knew we had a fast runner on. I try to put the ball in play and see what happens then.”

Said Morello: “She’s been money. I thought for a second to bump Weisenberg to third base with less than two outs, but Kyleigh has been really steady all year, one of our best hitters all year.”

Middletown has five games scheduled in the next eight days and the freshmen can’t wait to get back at it, starting with Bristol Central on Wednesday.

“I think the team dynamic is really good and that’s what ‘s giving us most of our wins, if not all of them,” Weisenberg said. “It’s not just our talent, but our chemistry.”

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