Baseball: Center Moriches blows away Tuckers in windy opener

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03/26/2012 8:33 PM |

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Dan Franchi of Center Moriches sliding safely into third base while Mattituck's Chris Dwyer awaited a throw.


As considerable a force as the chilling wind was on Monday, Patrick Bryant’s pitching arm and the Center Moriches baseball team’s busy bats were even bigger factors in its season-opening game at Mattituck High School.

After giving up three hits and two runs in the first inning, Bryant held Mattituck hitless the rest of the way as Center Moriches ran away to a 15-3 blowout of the defending Long Island Class B champions in the Suffolk County League VIII game.

Surely, it wasn’t the start to the season that Mattituck had envisioned. The Tuckers committed seven errors and struggled offensively. Starting with their final out of the first inning, they finished the game going 0 for 21.

“It was a rough start,” said Mattituck second baseman George Lessard.

Of course, Bryant had something to do with that. The 6-foot-4 right-hander recorded eight strikeouts, walked one batter and hit another. Two of the runs against him were earned.

“I felt good right off the bat,” said Bryant.

The fact that he pitched a full game was a nice plus for Center Moriches, but Bryant’s performance wasn’t out of the blue. He showed his quality last year as a freshman when he received all-league status.

“Patrick and I expect performances like that from him,” Center Moriches coach Mike Garofola said. “I expect him to be on top of his game all the time.”

On the offensive end, Jarad Vollkommer and Jeff Foster supplied the Red Devils with three hits and two runs batted in apiece. Vollkommer also scored three runs and stole two bases. Mike Colombi hit a home run to lead off the fourth inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Nick Bieber of Mattituck had a good look at a pitch from Center Moriches' Patrick Bryant.

“Today was their day,” said Mattituck coach Steve De Caro.

It didn’t start out that way, though. Mattituck took a 2-0 lead with a two-out rally in the first inning. The inning featured a single chopped up the middle by Chris Dwyer, a ground-rule double by Lessard, and a lined run-scoring single by Ryan Finger that grazed off the tip of diving shortstop Dillon Gagnon’s outstretched glove.

“Actually, we hit the ball pretty well in the first inning,” De Caro said. “We said, ‘Alright, let’s see what else we can get.’ ”

But Center Moriches buckled down. After that inning Bryant spoke with his catcher, Foster, about mixing up his pitches. The Red Devils kept the faith.

“I’m very confident in this team,” Garofola said. “I really feel that although we’re young, we have good ballplayers. When we went down 2-nothing, I really wasn’t panicked at all. I really felt like Pat was going to pick his game up as far as his pitching, and I know that we can swing the bat well enough to bounce back in the game.”

Center Moriches came back strong, making 14 plate appearances and striking for eight runs in the second inning. The burst featured two-run doubles by Gagnon and Foster.

Speaking of his teammates, Bryant said, “Even though they’re down, they don’t get rattled and still find ways to come back.”

While Mattituck managed to put runners in scoring position six times, Center Moriches did so 23 times, delivering seven hits on those occasions. The Red Devils totaled 14 hits.

“They were hitting the ball all over the place,” Lessard said. “We just weren’t up to par.”

In the meantime, both sides had to deal with rough opening-day weather. A stiff wind was blowing out to right-center field and making fly balls an adventure.

“This was one of the coldest days I’ve ever had here at Mattituck,” said De Caro, who is in his 10th year coaching the Tuckers. “We’ve lived through snowstorms at Mattituck, but this was a nasty one, 30-mile-per-hour winds biting right through you.”

“It was a nasty, nasty day,” he continued. “If you’re from Mattituck, you got to learn how to play in this, no matter what because these are the days that we play in.”

One player who played, but not in the field, was Mattituck’s Travis Zurawski. Because of an ailing elbow, Zurawski did not play a field position. He was inserted into the No. 3 slot in the batting order as the designated hitter, going 0 for 2 and being hit by a pitch. De Caro said he was concerned about Zurawski’s elbow.

For Mattituck, Monday’s loss was one it does not wish to dwell on.

“After the year we had last year, we kind of know that teams are coming out for us,” De Caro said. “We’re a young team now, and we’re going to have days like this but, more important, we’re going to correct days like this.”

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