Just when Joe Wozny was on the verge of doing something special, Southold said no-no to the no-no.
Through six innings Saturday, Southold’s batters couldn’t touch Wozny. The Stony Brook pitcher took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Then, the first batter he faced that inning, Brendan Duffy, clobbered a stand-up double over the leftfielder.
Bye, bye no-hitter.
“I wish I had that pitch back,” said Wozny, who was seeking his first varsity no-hitter.
Wozny, nursing a 5-0 lead, then walked Michael Daddona. That’s when Connor Wilinski, all 5 feet of him, stepped into the batter’s box and delivered the longest hit of the day. Wilinski crushed a 1-and-1 fastball, driving a triple to deep leftfield that was good for two runs.
“That was a bomb,” said Duffy.
Wilinski, who then scored himself on Nick Eckhardt’s sacrifice fly, cutting the Stony Brook lead to two runs, said, “I think I just got my pitch.”
Wozny said: “They were seeing me for the third or fourth time, so you expect them to be able to turn a couple of pitches around. I left a couple of fastballs belt high right down the middle.”
Suddenly, Wozny was looking at the possibility of losing more than the no-hitter. But the 6-1 sophomore righthander bore down after issuing a walk to Eric Connolly. He struck out the last two batters looking to wrap up the 5-3 win in the Suffolk County League IX game.
“We didn’t want to go down easy,” Duffy said. “We wanted to put up a little fight, and I think we did.”
Wozny’s heart may have sunk when he lost the no-hit bid, but he still turned in quite a performance.
“A no-hitter is always special,” Stony Brook coach Dustin Mones said. “If somebody can get it, I always want to see them have that moment. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t go out there pitching to get a no-hitter; you’re pitching to win, and he did that.”
Wozny, a power pitcher, used an assortment of pitches, including a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer that had a lot of movement, a curveball and a slider. With those weapons in his arsenal, he registered a career-high 15 strikeouts, seven of them coming on called third strikes. He walked three.
“We all know he’s a special player and he did a great job,” Mones said. “He mixed up his pitches today. He threw a first-pitch strike all game and he was really accurate with that fastball, and then when he threw a curveball, it’s almost unhittable.”
Southold (1-5, 1-5) had its work cut out. The First Settlers were missing two of their top players in Billy Burns and Luke Hansen, who were away on a senior class trip. To help make up for their absence, leftfielder Tom Cardi was brought up from the junior varsity team and was among four eighth-graders in the starting lineup along with third baseman Dylan Newman, first baseman Duffy and second baseman Wilinski.
“Those three guys, they’re on our team for a reason,” Southold coach Greg Tulley said. “They have a lot of potential.”
Catcher Joe Hayes was the only Southold player present who was on the team last year.
On an afternoon when the blinding sun and wind gusts blowing in from rightfield made life difficult for the fielders, Stony Brook (5-2, 5-2) took a 1-0 lead after the game’s first two batters drew walks and Tim Wozny’s groundout scored one of them.
That score stood until the Bears tacked on two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. The fourth saw RBI singles to centerfield by Emmanuel Ajewole (3-for-4) and Jack Derco. In the fifth, successive singles by Aiden Mega, Joe Wozny and Tim Wozny (three RBIs) made it 5-0.
For young Southold, this season is a work in progress. Tulley said he is seeing improvement.
“I know our record is not necessarily showing it … but we’re a much different team right now than we were in the first couple of games,” he said. “There’s still a lot of baseball left to play and I think we’ll win our fair share of games by the time the season is over.”
Photo caption: Southold’s Brendan Duffy follows through on his double to lead off the seventh inning, breaking Stony Brook pitcher Joe Wozny’s no-hit bid. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)