By Ryan Fennell
Middletown – The Middletown North Lions wanted desperately to put their first win in the books for the 2012 season at home on Monday during what was a special day for many when the Lions community honored coaching legend Rich Veth prior to the game.
Veth was the head baseball coach at Middletown North for 22 years until retiring shortly before his death in 2002.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the game slipped away in the top of the seventh inning, erasing a hard fought 1-0 lead and dropped the game 3-1 to Marlboro.
Senior Dan Sblendorio kept the Marlboro lineup in check for 5.2 innings and left the game in the six in line for the Lions’ first win of the season.
However, Marlboro’s Adam Ashenfarb was equally impressive on the mound allowing only one run through six and striking out five.
Early on, the Lions appeared to be overly aggressive at the plate, swinging at the first pitch and failing to get anyone on base until the fourth.
It was the fourth when the Lions pushed across their only run.
“We were kind of anxious up there looking to be aggressive at times,” Middletown North head coach Jay Dooley said. “There are certain times in the game where you’ve got to be patient and make their pitcher work a little bit.
“It’s a learning curve,” he said. “We’ll talk about it in practice tomorrow and apply it in our next game.”
Connor Dickie led off with a double to center and moved to third when Chris Stark pushed one through the left side of the infield two batters later.
With one out, Stark drew the pickoff from Ashenfarb and got himself into a run-down while Dickie scampered home.
The Lions almost added another run in the fifth when Dickie lined one to left center with two on and two out but Marlboro center fielder Pat McLaughlin rifled the ball home and nabbed Dickie at the plate for the third out.
John Vigorito relieved Sblendorio with two outs in the sixth and after getting into a bit of a jam with a man on first and third, got Marlboro’s Anthony Lobrace to ground out to the shortstop.
Vigorito was nearly as fortunate in the seventh.
After getting McLaughlin to ground out to start the inning, Vigorito gave up consecutive base hits to Eric Katz and Rob Baccala. After a double-steal put runners on second and third for Marlboro, leadoff batter Anthony Asta dropped down a bunt back to the mound. Vigorito fielded it and tossed it to Tim Rhatigan behind the plate to just get Katz at the plate for the second out.
Asta then stole second to put runners on secong and third for Ashenfarb who lined one to center to bring both runs home and take a 2-1 lead.
Ashenfarb stole second and scored Marlboro’s third run on a single to right by Evan Hilla after Middletown North’s Ryan Dand relieved Vigorito.
The Lions were retired in order in the bottom of the seventh and fell to 0-5 on the year.
“Our pitching has been there all year,” Dooley said. “It’s our bats that haven’t been coming around. We’re not getting the clutch hit at the right time. It’s a hard thing for them to keep their heads up going 0-5 right now.”