By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — It’s a small sample size to this point, but the Middle Township High School baseball team’s pitching has been on point to start the season.
The Panthers got their third straight excellent pitching effort in a 13-0 victory over Clayton in five innings in a non-league game on Saturday.
The win moved Middle to a solid 2-1 through three games. The Panthers have conceded just two runs over the three games.
“Our pitching’s been really good so far,” said Middle coach Chuck Dougherty, who moved six shy of his 300th career victory with the result. “We only gave up two hits our first game (in a 1-0 loss to Pitman), three hits (in a 5-1 win over Pleasantville) and then three or four today. The pitching’s been very good.”
Rob Ferguson and Aaron Garcia combined for the five-inning shutout against Clayton. That came on the heels of two stellar performances by ace Zach Wyatt, who took the tough-luck 1-0 complete-game loss to Pitman in the team’s opener on March 31 before tossing another complete game in the 5-1 win over an improved Pleasantville squad on Friday.
“Our pitching’s been keeping our team in the games and that’s what’s most important,” Wyatt said.
Middle controlled the win over Clayton from the start by scoring six times in the first inning.
Garrett DiPalantino went 2 for 3 with four RBI, Wyatt had a pair of RBI hits, Jake Cooper had two hits and two RBI and Orlando Ramos blasted a three-run double to deep left field for his first varsity hit.
“We’re still not hitting the ball like I think we can but I think it’ll come,” Dougherty said.
Middle faces a difficult week with three conference games. The Panthers face Absegami Tuesday, Ocean City Thursday and Cedar Creek Friday.
“Those are tough league games right away but I think we’ll do OK,” Dougherty said, “especially if we keep pitching the way we have been. ‘Fergie’ threw real well today and Wyatt’s been really, really good so far.”
Middle won just eight games last season but seems better equipped to compete this spring.
“We’re really the same team from last year but we’re older,” Wyatt said. “We have some more experience. Hopefully us seniors can come together and bring the team some success.”