FIRST SETTLERS 8, PORTERS 2
It was only the fifth game of the season for the Southold baseball team, and yet, it was an important one. Losses in their first four games had made it that way for the First Settlers.
“This was definitely a must-win game,” said shortstop/pitcher Kyle Clausen.
Two freshmen made their first varsity pitching starts, but Southold turned to a veteran to help steer the First Settlers to their first win. Clausen pitched four scoreless innings to wrap up Southold’s 8-2 defeat of Greenport on Friday at Greenport High School. It was just what the First Settlers needed.
“We broke the ice,” Southold coach Mike Carver said. “Sometimes the toughest thing to do when you’re down is to break the ice.”
Carver said his team didn’t panic after opening the season with three losses to Smithtown Christian and another to Pierson/Bridgehampton. For one thing, slow starts are nothing new to the First Settlers. They have a history of them, including last year when they opened the season with a 1-5 record.
Even so, Carver had had enough of losing. He said he told his players before Friday’s Suffolk County League IX game, “Today is the day to stop the pain.”
And they did.
Clausen (1-2), a senior right-hander, allowed two hits and one walk, striking out three after relieving freshman Alex Poliwoda. Poliwoda, who lasted three-plus innings in his first start, gave up five hits and two earned runs. He walked two and struck out three.
Matt Drinkwater (0-1) was Greenport’s starting pitcher. Over four innings, he allowed three hits, two earned runs and three walks against three strikeouts.
Clausen also roped a run-scoring single in the first inning when three errors helped Southold assume a 2-0 lead.
A run-scoring triple by Shayne Johnson in the second inning and a Clausen sacrifice fly in the third stretched that lead to 4-0.
It was a sloppy game defensively, with the teams combining for nine errors. Three of those errors by Southold in the third helped Greenport pull to within 4-2. Back-to-back singles by Mark Pagano and Michael Reed were followed by an Austin Hooks groundout for the first Porters’ run. Then Reed scored on a wild pitch, making it a two-run game.
A three-run Southold rally in the fifth gave the First Settlers more breathing room. Anthony Fedele led things off by cracking a single, and then walks to Luke Hokanson and Will Fujita loaded the bases with none out. One out later, Rob Mahony brought in a run the hard way, by getting hit by a pitch. Hokanson and Fujita later scored on the same throwing error.
Fedele supplied Southold’s final run in the sixth. After being hit by a pitch and stealing second base, he scored on an errant pickoff attempt.
“We had two bad innings,” Greenport coach Chris Golden said. “It’s not like we got dominated or beat bad. We just didn’t execute when we needed to execute.”
Pagano, Reed and Brian Tuthill had two hits apiece for Greenport (1-2, 1-2). The Porters put up seven hits — two more than Southold — but they were lacking timely hits. Greenport hit 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.
“We have to chain our hits together and execute on defense,” said Pagano, who along with Reed are the team’s only seniors. “We gave up too many unearned runs.”
The big difference between last year’s Greenport team and this year’s Porters can really be summed up in one name: Shaun Hansen.
With Hansen’s graduation last year, Greenport said goodbye to its ace pitcher and a terrific hitter. “Shaun Hansen was a guaranteed win every series,” said Pagano.
Golden said he likes his team’s pitching as well as the play of his sophomore shortstop, Tuthill.
“We’ll have our good days; we’ll have our bad days, too,” Golden said. “Once we become more consistent in hitting in situations, that will make a difference.”
Finally, after four losses, Southold enjoyed a good day on Friday. And, make no mistake, fifth game of the season or not, it was a big win for the First Settlers.
“Big, big,” Carver said. “Oh, it would have been a long weekend [had we lost]. One and 4 is lonely, but 0 and 5 is really lonely.”