Pictured: Angelina Vartuli, left, and Middletown third baseman Peyton Morello celebrate the final out of a 7-0 CCC semifinal victory over Glastonbury.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

MIDDLETOWN – After Middletown High posted its 20th softball win of the season Wednesday, the time has come to peel off the underdog label that used to fit a Blue Dragons squad that has seven underclassmen in the starting lineup.

Behind senior pitcher Angelina Vartuli, the Blue Dragons were the dominant team for the second consecutive day and now will go up against the historically elite Blue Knights of Southington for the Central Connecticut Conference championship.

Vartuli pitched a 2-hitter, allowed just four base runners and struck out 15 to power Middletown to a 7-0 victory over Glastonbury at Lu Gecewicz Field. A day earlier, Vartuli surrendered only one hit and struck out 19 Berlin batters in a 4-0 final.

The word of the day outside Middletown’s dugout?

“Confidence.”

While Vartuli and her catcher, Abby Young, insisted the team never takes an opponent lightly, the results also show that Middletown can’t be overlooked either.

“My confidence has been on point,” said Vartuli, whose rising fastball was the predominant pitch that overwhelmed Glastonbury’s hitters. “I’ve really gained confidence over the season. Our 18-2 record (regular season), that really has helped my confidence. And I trust the defense behind me and my coaches.

“If I’m confident out there, I can throw hard and the way I need to throw.”

Vartuli retired the first nine Glastonbury batters, seven by strikeout. Middletown gave her its first defensive gem in the second inning when diving second baseman Carly Weisenberg snared a ground ball and threw the runner out.

The Blue Dragons (20-2) scored their first run off Guardians starter Gabrielle Lambert in the third inning. Peyton Morello led off with a single to center and eventually scored on Kyleigh Franklin’s base hit.

Glastonbury (15-7) managed its only hits of the game in the fourth.

UMass-bound Lily Woodworth (daughter of Wesleyan baseball coach Mark Woodworth) singled but was caught stealing second on a bullet throw that Young made from her knees. Ryley Handrahan doubled to left with two outs, but Vartuli put the clamps down by striking out Lambert to end the inning.

Middletown tacked on another run in its half of the fourth. Caitlin Burgess led off with a wind-aided triple to right field and scored on Vartuli’s single inside the right-field line.

Though they left the bases loaded, the Blue Dragons padded their lead in the fifth when Young doubled with one out and scored on a two-out error.

After striking out the side in the fifth, Vartuli worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth thanks to Middletown’s defense: Morello made a diving catch of a looper in the dirt at third, and the Guardians’ Jane Morris was cut down at home after being caught in a 6-2-5-1 rundown.

Middletown broke open the game with four runs in its next at-bat. Katie Coggshall singled in a run for a 4-0 lead before Young, the team’s cleanup hitter, cleared the bases with a double to left-center.

“It all starts with Angelina, who has been unbelievable for us,” Middletown coach Sal Morello said. “We have to have the pitching and defense to win games. She has worked so hard this year and it’s paying off for her and rubbing off on the other kids. It’s getting contagious. The kids have confidence and that’s 90 percent of the battle.”

Coggshall had two hits and stole two bases from the leadoff spot, while freshman Morello was 3 for 3 with two runs scored. Young had two doubles and three RBI after striking out in her first two plate appearances. Franklin, another freshman, also had two hits.

Middletown will meet Southington at Dunn Field in Meriden on Friday (6pm) for the conference title.

“We have a mindset that we don’t roll the gloves out, we don’t go out and roll the bats out,” Young said. “We have to play our ‘A’ game every single game and bring our best every single game. We can’t take anyone lightly at all. And we’re getting it done.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *