By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Missed opportunities may haunt the members of the Middle Township High School baseball team for quite some time.
The Panthers dropped a South Jersey Group II playoff thriller Wednesday, falling 2-1 to Point Pleasant Boro in a game that featured many twists and turns but little in the way of scoring.
Connor Cilento led off the top of the 10th inning with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to put ninth-seeded Pt. Pleasant Boro ahead. The visitors later ended the game with a flourish, turning a nifty 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the frame to finish off the contest and advance in the tournament.
No. 8 Middle had numerous chances to score more runs. The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning and failed to score. They also failed to score after putting runners on first and second base with no outs in the third. And then in the fifth, after a long triple to right-center field by Ben Harris sent Owen Hall home with the tying run with no outs, Harris was left stranded as well.
“The chances of all that happening and scoring no runs is insane,” said Hall, who went 4 for 5 in his final high school game. “It just happened to happen. It’s just how the ball rolled.”
Middle otherwise played a crisp game throughout. Pitchers Ryan Gallagher, Mike Adelizzi and Harris combined to walk just four batters and allow seven hits over 10 innings. The Panthers also did not make an error. Outfielders Vinny Povio and Drew Nelson each made diving catches late in the game to thwart Pt. Pleasant Boro chances.
But, ultimately, Middle just could not push across another run. Panther batters struck out 15 times.
“It’s tough in our senior year going out like that,” Hall said. “But at least we went out fighting. This game was round by round, going to 10 and not giving up.”
Middle, which finished 11-15, had entered the game playing its best baseball of the season. The team had won six of its previous eight, including a 10-run decision over highly regarded Holy Spirit.
“We had been on a roll,” Hall said. “Even though we lost, I’m proud of our guys. We fought our hearts out.”