MILLTOWN — There’s an old thought in baseball that as the weather warms up, the ball tends to fly farther. That sure was the case for Middletown on May 12, as the Cavaliers slugged four home runs on their way to a 10-6 win at Saint Mark’s in a late-season baseball showdown.
The biggest bat belonged to Cavaliers senior Zak Sophy, who finished with two home runs and a total of six runs batted in. Four of those came on one swing of the bat when he smoked a grand slam to right-center in the sixth inning.
Before the dingers, however, the teams put some runs on the board with a smaller-ball approach. The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the first when Tyler Satterfield drove in Michael Clarke with a single of Middletown starter Andrew Steinhaus. Clarke had reached on a double that one-hopped the fence in left. Middletown tied it in the second off Spartans starter Jack Burns when Brandon Boyd, who had reached on an infield single, came in after a Spartans error. The second started with some defense, however, as Spartans rightfielder Kyle Reader made a lunging catch going hard to his left to rob William Austin of a hit.
The scoring pattern repeated in the bottom of the second and top of the third. Hayden Fauerbach reached on a Cavaliers error. Courtesy runner Connor Feeley moved to second on a passed ball and to third on a groundout, and he scored on another groundout, this one by Andrew Wenger. Brendan Timmons tied it in the third with a one-out home run to left field. The Cavaliers were just getting started with the long ball.
After Spartans starting pitcher Jack Burns retired the Cavs in order in the fourth, Saint Mark’s took the lead for the third time when they batted in the fourth. Again, the leadoff hitter, Satterfield, reached on an error and advanced on a passed ball. He moved to third on a ground ball out, and he scored on a wild pitch.
The Cavaliers took the lead for good in the fourth, thanks to the long ball. Timothy Bowlby singled to open the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Sophy stepped up and sent a blast to right field, nearly clearing the scoreboard, putting his team on top to stay. Timmons came up and walked, and Austin made the Spartans pay when he crushed a fly ball over the fence in right to extend the lead to 6-3.
Sophy wasn’t done. The lefty came up with the bases loaded in the sixth, and he sent a fly ball deep and over the 375-foot sign in right-center.
The Spartans, facing a seven-run deficit, weren’t done. After the first batter of the sixth was retired, the next four reached base, with John Klepacki and Max Coughenour both coming in to score. Saint Mark’s loaded the bases with two outs, prompting a pitching change by the Cavaliers, and Brad Perry retired James Baffone on a fly ball near the right-field line.
The bottom of the seventh was anything but routine. Clarke and Feeley reached, and Sophy came in to relieve Perry. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases, then hit Coughenour, who picked up a run batted in the painful way. Sophy got the first out on a big strikeout, and the game ended on a 4-6-3 double play.
Sophy had the two home runs, and he picked up the save. Timmons had a double and a homer, and he scored three times. Boyd had a pair of singles and scored twice. The Cavaliers won their fourth straight to improve to 10-5 and host Newark Charter on Saturday at 11 a.m.
For Saint Mark’s, Clarke had a pair of hits and scored twice. The Spartans (11-4) play their final home game of the regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Salesianum.
All photos by Mike Lang.