RIVALRY BASEBALL: Pitching of Salafia, Ortiz carries Platt to payback win over Maloney

RIVALRY BASEBALL: Pitching of Salafia, Ortiz carries Platt to payback win over Maloney

MERIDEN — After plenty of pomp and circumstance celebrating the past of Meriden baseball, it was down to the current business of baseball Tuesday night at Ceppa Field.

And Platt evened the 2019 score with Maloney behind the pitching of Joe Salafia, beating the Spartans 5-1 in the first annual “Bash at Historic Ceppa Field.”

The win improved Platt to 11-8 overall, while Maloney fell to 8-11.

Salafia got a bit of personal revenge as well in the CCC South-Colonial matchup. On Senior Night for both teams, the senior avenged an early exit in the first meeting of the cross-city rivals.

Salafia, who was battling elbow issues in his pitching arm and on a pitch count at the time, lasted just 3 2/3 innings in a 4-3 loss to Maloney earlier this season. Tuesday night was a different story.

“It feels so good after last time,” Salafia said. “Coming out here tonight, on a great night, it felt real good to beat these guys. There is nothing better than beating Maloney.”

“I think tonight was a great statement for our team to show who we are,” Salafia added. “It was a personal statement for me throwing the way I did. And then for Eddison (Ortiz) to come in to close. Two guys who’ve carried the workload pitching this year. I’m really happy we did what we did together.”

Salafia allowed just two hits over six innings before giving way to fellow senior Ortiz, who worked a perfect seventh with two strikeouts.

Salafia walked three Spartans and struck out five. It was his best outing of the season since limiting Wethersfield to two runs over seven innings in Florida.

“Joe really pitched well,” Platt head coach Tim Redican said. “Our mentality is to go out and prove it. Prove we are the better team (than Maloney). It was a good day. I can’t think of a senior who didn’t contribute.”  

“Just a great, gutty effort by Joe,” Maloney head coach Ricky Marrero said. “You have to give Platt credit. They really fought well. You never want to lose to a cross-town rival, but baseball is a funny game. We won last time, they won tonight.”

Salafia cruised through the first five innings before hitting a pair of Spartans with an out in the sixth. But Salafia got Evan Cordero to innocently pop out to shortstop and ended his night by getting John Vumback to fly out to right field.

Platt improved to 7-5 in CCC games. The Spartans are now 6-6  in CCC play.

The Panthers took control of the game by batting around in the fifth inning.

Platt strung together four straight singles — two of the infield variety — with one out in the fifth inning. A bases-loaded walk then gave the Panthers a 4-1 advantage. Ricky D’Aniello knocked out Maloney starter Owen Papciak with the fifth single of the frame to give Platt a 5-1 lead.

Papciak lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and five earned runs. Ironically, Papciak worked a 1-2-3 fourth inning before running into trouble in the fifth.

Mike Duffy came on in relief of Papciak and got Kyle Parmelee to fly out to center with the bases loaded. Duffy worked a perfect sixth inning also and didn’t allow a hit over the final 2 1/3 innings.

The Panthers’ fifth-inning rally started when Jake Baker lined a sharp single to right field with one out and moved to second on Peyton Thiel’s infield hit that shortstop Elliott Good gloved, but couldn’t throw on to first in time.

Cam Germe followed with another infield hit to load the bases. Jack Clancy’s solid single up the middle gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

Platt took its first lead 2-1 in the third inning via the speed of E.J. Dudley and two errors.

Dudley led off the third with a bunt single and stole second. He moved to third on Kam Hartenstein’s errant throw into center field. Baker then walked and stole second to put Panthers on second and third with no outs.

After Thiel flew out to right field, Germe singled home Dudley to tie the game and Baker scored to give Platt the lead when Ethan Brazel bobbled the ball.

“It did feel good to come back after that first close loss,” Germe said. “But as my teammates were saying, it’s a statement win. We wanted to come out and beat them today.”

Platt threatened in the second inning when Andrew McCarty lined a single sharply to left field to lead off, but a double play on a hit-and-run derailed the Panthers’ threat.

Salafia lined a ball to Maloney left fielder Max Giacco, who threw to Good, who in turn threw out McCarty at first base. Kyle Parmalee then ended the inning by lining out to a diving Good.

Maloney took a 1-0 lead in the first inning , as Giacco hit Salafia’s second pitch sharply into left field and stretched the line drive into a double. He moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on Papciak’s sacrifice fly to left field.

Dudley hit Papciak’s first pitch for a double down the first-base line for a double. But after a sacrifice bunt by Jake Baker moved Dudley to third, Papciak got Theil to ground out to third base and struck out Jack Clancy on a curveball with Panthers on first and third base.

Salafia worked around a pair of throwing errors by shortstop Baker in the second inning and third innings. Salafia struck out Brazel looking to end the third inning with Platt up 2-1.

It was a festive atmosphere at Ceppa Field. Both the Maloney and Platt seniors were honored on Senior Night. The city also honored its baseball past and future with pregame introduction of two local icons, Terry Bongiovanni and Edward Zajac.

The Washington and Lincoln middle school players also joined the Maloney and Platt teams on the first and third base lines.

The city started what it hopes will become a tradition by honoring Bongiovanni and Zajac. Each were presented plaques prior to the game and Bongiovanni threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Bongiovanni is a Platt icon. As a senior captain, he was the first Panther named to the all-state team. And while he will be known for his pitching exploits, he batted .351 as senior.

Upon graduation, Bongiovanni was drafted by Cubs in the third round and played three years with the Cubs and two more seasons with the Yankees.

It’s been over 50 years since Bongiovanni graduated from Platt, but he still owns the school’s record for victories in a season (11) and career wins (28). Bongiovanni also had three no-hitters for Platt.

Zajac will forever be associated with Maloney baseball. The field the current Spartans call home is named after Zajac.

Zajac graduated from Maloney in 1952 and went on to play at UConn. He was an esteemed basketball and baseball coach at Maloney, winning 271 baseball games at Maloney. His Spartans reached the 1989 state title game and Zajac was named 1992 state coach of the year.


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