Baseball: Settlers drop the ball in Port Jefferson

05/06/2011 9:24 PM |

Moments after Port Jefferson’s Joe Gerbino crossed home plate with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on Friday, Southold pitcher Will Fujita walked off the mound and threw his glove against the fence.

In many ways he had a right to be upset. The First Settlers had squandered a three-run lead they had taken in the top of the inning and were forced to endure a long bus ride home after an excruciating 14-13 Suffolk County League VIII defeat in Port Jefferson.

The Royals (9-5, 9-3) combined two singles, two errors and a dramatic game-tying home run by Billy Crowe to pull out a dramatic triumph.

“It was built-up frustration,” Fujita said. “It’s tough because the ground balls and the plays are not being made. It’s just tough watching it. It came down to me just being frustrated with myself at the end.

“We’re a young team. These guys are a bunch of seniors. They know how the game’s played. Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of young guys and it’s just not going to cut it.”

It was difficult to believe that these two same teams had played a neat 1-0 thriller won by Southold (5-10, 5-8) the previous afternoon, 1-0, on a one-hitter by Anthony Fedele.

“We didn’t deserve to win [Friday’s] game,” Southold Coach Mike Carver said. “We made too many mistakes. We played the exact opposite than we played yesterday. We got more runs today. They gave us runs. We didn’t capitalize and we gave it back.”

Kyle Clausen, the starting pitcher who switched battery positions with Fujita, the catcher, in the fourth, said the First Settlers left with a “bad taste in our mouths. We played with them in every game this year. We should have taken at least two out of three.”

How wild was this one?

* Well, both inning-by-inning line scores looked like phone numbers:
Southold — 202 222 3
Port Jefferson — 211 213 4

* The only half inning without a run was the top of the second.

* Every player but one reached base at least twice.

* The game had six lead changes and the score was tied three times.

“It was a sloppy game,” Carver said. “High school baseball shouldn’t be a 14-13 game in varsity.”

In a game that featured some memorable hits — for example, Southold’s Andrew Conway and Clausen slugged back-to-back homers in the third inning — errors took center stage in the decisive seventh.

The First Settlers broke a 10-10 deadlock by scoring three runs on a bizarre play with one out. With Robert Mahony and Alex Sinclair on first and third, respectively, Luke Hokanson hit a grounder to shortstop Drew Crovello. Crovello’s throw to the plate was off target and Sinclair scored. Gerbino, the catcher, tried to gun down Mahoney at third, but he fired the ball into left field as Hokanson came around.

Buoyed by a three-run lead — the game’s biggest margin — the First Settlers entered the bottom half of the inning optimistic.

“I thought it was in the book,” Clausen said. “We had the confidence out there at the top of the seventh with our hitting. I thought we’d bring it into the field, but it didn’t happen.”

Carver was more pragmatic.

“I turned around to my people on bench and said, ‘If we get the first out, we’re going to win the game,’ ” he said. “We didn’t get the first out and we lost the game.”

Instead, Mike Toffales reached first on an error. He advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Alex Ruback’s single. Crowe unloaded a two-run homer to left-center to tie it at 13-all.

“I left a fastball upstairs,” Fujita said. “He rocked that one.”

Port Jefferson wasn’t finished. Gerbino, who reached base five times, wound up at second on a two-base error. Alex Carlacci then hit the ball up the middle; it bounced off the shortstop Hokanson’s glove and into center field as Gerbino came home with the winning run.

“I was taking five miles an hour off my fastball, tailing it low and inside,” Fujita said. “They were hitting ground balls to the left side of the infield. The plays were just not going our way. It took some bad hops, bad plays.”