Luke Hansen has only one “k” in his name, but he had 16 of them listed after it on Thursday.
The tall, lean Southold High School pitcher used his overpowering fastball to perplex batters, firing a one-hitter with 16 strikeouts — equaling a season-high — in a 10-0 complete-game defeat of Stony Brook.
In other words, it was the sort of pitching performance the First Settlers have come to expect this season. The New York State Sports Writers Association poll that came out yesterday has Southold ranked first in the state in Class C. The First Settlers have outscored teams, 140-6, are a perfect 14-0 overall and in Suffolk County League IX, and appear destined for third straight league and county championships and perhaps more, much more.
“It just shows that we’re as dominant as we should be,” said Hansen.
Catcher Shane Zimmer said: “We hit the ball one through nine. We got, most of the time, sound defense, and obviously the pitching is just unreal.”
No wonder shortstop Pat McFarland offered the word “excellent” to a reporter looking for a description of the team’s season.
It all starts with Southold’s celebrated starting pitching staff of Dylan Clausen, Hansen and McFarland. They have all been unbeatable.
“At this point, we’re expecting one-hitters every game,” Zimmer said. “We got three guys on our team who are number one starters.”
On Thursday it was Hansen’s turn to step onto the mound at Southold High School, and he didn’t disappoint. The 6-foot-3 junior lefthander fell behind in the count to the game’s first batter, Seamus Scanlon, before striking him out. The next one to step into the batter’s box was Aiden Mega, who dropped a single into centerfield.
That proved to be Stony Brook’s only hit of the day. The only other Bears to reach base were Scanlon when he was hit by a pitch on his lower left leg in the third inning and Emmanuel Ajewole, who reached base on a throwing error two outs into the seventh.
The first 11 outs Southold recorded were on Hansen strikeouts. He did not issue a walk in the game. All 10 Stony Brook batters struck out at least once.
“I felt good,” Hansen (4-0) said. “The changeup wasn’t working too well, but I kind of threw that out, came back a little bit, but the fastball looked good, I felt. It got better as I went on. The curveball was there.”
Southold coach Mike Carver said: “He can throw hard. That ball was up in the 80s.”
Zimmer, who has been catching Hansen since they were in Little League, has seen a change in Hansen since last season.
“His command is so much better than it was last year,” Zimmer said. “Last year he was a little wild at times. This year he’s pinpoint accurate with his fastball. He can get wherever he wants. His curveball has some serious break to it. The changeup, when it’s working, it’s good.”
After two scoreless innings, Southold broke the ice in the third when Joe Hayes scored on a throwing error and Clausen socked a single, bringing in two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
A bases-loaded walk by Hayes and a McFarland sacrifice fly in the fourth made it 5-0.
Then a four-run fifth stretched the lead to 9-0. That rally was highlighted by Adam Baldwin’s two-run single. Baldwin picked up his third RBI of the game in the sixth on a groundout.
Carver said he told his players during the second series of the season that the only team that could beat Southold was Southold. That hasn’t happened yet.
“And we’re getting better every game,” he said. “As a coach sitting here, I told the boys, ‘I know what we have. I hope you guys know what we have.’ ”
Photo caption: Luke Hansen had 11 of his 16 strikeouts in the first inning while tossing a one-hitter. (Credit: Garret Meade)