By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MERIDEN – When you have a top contender on the ropes, you have to find a way to land a knockout punch.
When you fail to do that, the contender is going to turn around and knock you out instead.
The Maloney baseball squad had a chance for that knockout connection against Bristol Central but in the end, the Rams scratched, clawed, and dug itself out of a tremendous hole to keep its undefeated ledger intact on Monday, May 7.
Good teams find a way to win and that’s exactly when that Rams did, turning a six-run, seventh inning deficit into an amazing two-run come-from-behind victory over Maloney in an improbable 12-10 win over the Spartans at Maloney High School.
The incredible victory pushed Central’s record to 13-0 while Maloney fell to 8-5 on the season.
The top rated squad in all the state trailed 10-4 going into the final frame against the Spartans but off an incredible inning at the plate, the Rams wrapped up an eight-run seventh. Off a brilliant relief performance by pitcher Tony Nicoletti (1-0), Maloney was doomed entering its portion of the seventh.
It was a bullpen day for chucker Matt Blandino but the senior wanted to get into the game rather badly.
And once he made his way onto the mound to warm-up for the seventh, the dejected looks on the Maloney bench said it all.
Blandino struck out the side as the Rams picked up a remarkable two-run win to keep its slate perfect on the season.
Pitchers Jarrett Michaels and Mike Tessman struggled for Central and Maloney quickly capitalized.
The Spartans netted three runs in the first, one in the second, and after Central put up a four-spot of its own to knot up the game, Maloney scooped up six in the bottom of the third frame to make it a 10-4 tilt in the home team’s favor.
Nicoletti came on in the third and in his stint on the mound, did not yield a solitary run.
Neither team scored a run in the fourth, fifth or sixth frames and then still trailing by six, Central went right to work offensively.
To start off a busy seventh stanza, Kyle Pikeski singled to get onboard and it led to a plate appearance by the always dangerous Jake Martel.
Martel proceeded to smash a two-run homer over the fence to trim the deficit to 10-6 and suddenly, the Rams were back into it.
Mitch Guilmette followed up with a single, moved to second off a fielder’s choice while Justen Jakubiak got on base via error and Central had two runners on with a chance to do even more damage.
Andrew Martin came through with an RBI single while the crafty Andrew Laviero smashed a double for two RBI and suddenly, the Rams trailed by just a run at 10-9.
With only one out in the frame, Eli Minella and Blandino each reached safely via base-on-balls as three runners were on and the tying and go-ahead runs were onboard.
The Rams batted around as Pileski was back at the plate and the bases were loaded.
He slipped a shot to second that was misplayed as Laviero scored and the game was knotted at 10-10.
From there, Martel and Guilmette added RBI singles and as the inning came to a close, the Rams edge reached two at 12-10.
And then the Maloney offense had the pleasure of dealing with Blandino on the mound and it was no pleasure at all for the Spartans.
Game over, as Central won by two.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE