By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The Middle Township High School baseball team was in a major jam in the top of the seventh inning of Friday evening’s game at Chuck Dougherty Field.
Four Lower Cape May runs were already in and the bases were loaded with no outs when Middle coach Chris Branigan went to the mound to make a pitching change.
As soon as Branigan arrived at the infield conference at the mound, senior Garrison Clarke told his coach he wanted to pitch.
Branigan didn’t blink. He handed the baseball to Clarke, who promptly set down three Caper Tiger batters in a row to finish off an 8-6 Panther victory.
“That last inning kind of sums up the season because nothing’s been easy for us,” Branigan said with a laugh. “I was going to go to Owen Hall there but his arm’s been bothering him a little lately. He said if we needed him to he could do it. But before I even said anything, Garrison Clarke looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Give me the ball, I’ll close this thing out.’ We had a wild inning going there so when a kid comes to you with that kind of confidence you just have to trust it. Nobody deserves it more than him.”
Clarke, who uses guile and location much more than power while on the mound, was helped by his defense. Second baseman Ethan Bossuyt made a diving catch of a popup behind first base for the first out of the inning. Next, Ben Harris fielded a tough grounder that bounced over first base and beat the batter to the bag as a run scored. Clarke then ended the threat, the inning and the game by getting the next batter to pop out to Ryan Gallagher at third base.
“This is a big rivalry and Lower is a well coached, young team that’s going to have a good program for years to come,” Branigan said. “Hats off to them for fighting until the end. These rivalry games, no one’s going to roll over for you. We were fortunate enough to close it out.”
Mike Adelizzi was excellent in the starting role for Middle. He allowed just one run through six innings. He exited the game after allowing a leadoff walk in the seventh due to his pitch count.
“We kind of expected that out of him,” Branigan said. “He’s been our most consistent pitcher all year. He’s a wrestler, so he’s an overall tough kid and he’s the guy we wanted on the mound to lead us to a much needed win. The moment wasn’t too big for him and he did an unbelievable job.”
Adelizzi also played a role at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
Also for Middle, Harris had three hits and scored twice, Gallagher was 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI, Colin Laughlin was 2 for 3 with a triple and Hall added a hit, two runs scored and an RBI.
Gabe Salinsky went 2 for 3 with two RBI and Aidan Lowry had two hits and two runs scored for Lower.