By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township and Wildwood high school baseball teams appeared locked in a game that might not get decided until the final inning or two on Thursday.
That is, until the surging Panthers exploded for seven runs in the third inning.
That seven-run frame opened the floodgates for Middle, which went on to score five more times over the next two innings to beat the Warriors in five innings, 12-2.
The game was played under the lights at Chuck Dougherty Field under a playoff-like atmosphere. A large crowd was on hand supporting both sides. Middle honored its seniors before the game.
“We’d been in this situation before – local game, night game, a lot of people around – and the past couple times against Lower (Cape May) and (Cape May) Tech we got a little tight,” Middle coach Chris Branigan said. “I think we started off a little tight in this one, too, but the captains and seniors did a great job calming everybody down. We started playing our game and trusting that would be enough to win.”
Middle pitcher Mike Adelizzi, a junior college student using the bridge year offered to those who lost a full season two years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scattered four hits and walked just one while striking out seven to the five-inning complete game.
“He wanted to come back and prove himself this year,” Branigan said of Adelizzi. “He did a great job in the offseason to make sure he was prepared to play. We knew he was going to be a guy we were going to lean on a lot this season. I don’t think he had the start he wanted on the mound and at the plate but he’s the type of guy who’s never satisfied. He’s always working and did a lot to work himself out of it and it’s starting to show on the field. We see a lot of confidence in him now on the mound and at the plate.”
Adelizzi, who is set to play at Barton college next year, also ended the game with a sacrifice fly that gave Middle its 10-run lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Middle (10-12), which won its fifth straight and for the sixth time in seven games, got production from across its lineup in the win. Eight different players had hits. Ryan Gallagher and Owen Hall led the way, with Gallagher going 2 for 2 with a walk, hit by pitch, two runs scored and an RBI and Hall hitting a two-run double, scoring twice and posting four RBI overall.
“You always say you want to be playing your best baseball going into the postseason,” Branigan said. “We’re doing a lot of things right in many of the phases of the game right now.”
Wildwood (6-10) got RBI hits from Dom Troiano and Junior Hans in the loss.