Small ball is bringing big results.
Mattituck High School’s baseball team is hoping even bigger things are yet to come.
That is quite a change — the small ball, that is. Last year the Tuckers were a power-hitting club that used the long ball to help them to their first New York State championship.
Through 10 games this season, Mattituck has yet to hit a home run. Yet, the Tuckers are 9-1 (7-1 in Suffolk County League VIII) and averaging a healthy 6.3 runs per game. They have been doing it with bunting, singles, steals — small ball. Ty Cobb would heartily approve.
“It was a struggle at first, I think, because we were so used to having Marcos [Perivolaris], Chris [Dwyer], James [Nish] get up there and always being able to get doubles, triples, home runs, but we’re doing a pretty good job,” Mattituck pitcher Christian Figurniak said. “As long as we get base hits and runs, I don’t see us having a problem.”
They didn’t have any problems Tuesday, taking the second game of their three-game series against Babylon, 6-2, in Mattituck. One of Mattituck’s runs came on a squeeze play, with Joe Graeb bringing John Lisowy home on a bunt for a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
An inning earlier, Jon Dwyer scored on a groundout by Mike Onufrak and Victor Proferes picked up a run batted in by beating out second baseman Hunter Chicchere’s throw after Proferes’ grounder nicked off pitcher Shaun Kaminski’s glove.
Mattituck lengthened its lead to 6-0 in the fifth, two runs scoring on an error and another on a bases-loaded walk by Graeb.
On Monday, Mattituck won the series opener, 4-3, on Proferes’ walk-off sacrifice fly in the seventh.
“The squeezes, the bunts, the steals, they’re doing an excellent job of executing, and that’s something we haven’t done this series, and that’s why we’re 0-2 right now,” said Babylon coach Victor Manzella.
The third game of the series will be Thursday night in Babylon. The Panthers are 9-2, 9-2.
Perhaps the hardest-hit balls in Tuesday’s game came off Dwyer’s bat. Dwyer delivered two doubles and a single.
Dwyer obviously has power, having homered in a scrimmage and hitting a few foul balls home-run distance, but he can appreciate Mattituck’s new style.
“It’s an interesting game, you know,” he said. “You don’t need that huge shot. You just need guys on base. That’s all it takes.”
Mattituck provided plenty of run support for Figurniak, who went the distance, with nine strikeouts. The senior lefthander, who threw 120 pitches, made good use of his two-seamer, which tails away from righthanded batters, catching the edge of the strike zone. He gave up eight hits and one walk.
The only runs Figurniak allowed were from Brandon Beierle’s looped RBI single in the sixth and Cole Middleton’s RBI single that he bounced up the middle in the seventh.
Figurniak may have been under the radar last year as Mattituck’s No. 4 starter. Now he is the No. 2 man in the rotation with a 4-0 record.
“Now he’s stepping up and he’s doing what we expect him to do,” said coach Steve DeCaro.
As for Mattituck’s small-ball style, it is just a case of what was old is now new again, said DeCaro.
“Last year we could have been a small-ball team at any point,” he said. “We didn’t have to because we had a bunch of guys hitting home runs, but we could have at any point become the same team we are now. Last year was more of a fluke. This is a typical Mattituck team where we can play small ball. We can bunt. We can steal. This is Mattituck baseball.”
Photo caption: Jon Dwyer delivered three hits for Mattituck, including a pair of hard-struck doubles. (Credit: Garret Meade)