Nicholas finds his range, and Settlers roll

SMITHTOWN — The first three innings were a struggle for the Southold High School baseball team. While the First Settlers’ bats were alive and well, their pitching was not.

Pitcher C. J. Nicholas faced 16 batters in the first three innings while giving up three runs on four hits and a walk. While hardly spot-on, he pitched well enough to keep Southold ahead of Smithtown Christian by a score of 8-3. The First Settlers went on to beat the Crusaders, 11-3, in the Suffolk County League VIII game on Tuesday afternoon at Smithtown Christian High School.

Meanwhile, Southold’s bench was forced to listen to incessant chattering from the Crusaders’ bench.

“At first I found it obnoxious,” Nicholas said. “Then it got a little comical. I found myself and I didn’t have to worry about anything. You’re going to have fun. There’s no need to get angry at anyone. You’re here to play the game. That’s what happens.”

After throwing 56 pitches through the first three innings, Nicholas found the strike zone in the bottom of the fourth inning. He struck out the side on 11 pitches, the first one-two-three inning recorded by either team.

The fifth inning began with Smithtown Christian’s Kyle Gorton grounding to shortstop. First baseman Shaun Hansen scooped up a low throw from Darrin Standish to get the out. Nicholas finished the inning with two more strikeouts.

Nicholas went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out seven.

“In the beginning I was really shaky,” Nicholas said. “I couldn’t focus on the mound and I was doing everything wrong. I settled down, picked up my velocity and found the strike zone.”

Southold Coach Mike Carver said Nicholas “settled in nicely there. The last three innings he threw really well. He didn’t have his stuff going the first couple innings.”

While Nicholas may have struggled early, his problems were small compared to those of Smithtown Christian pitcher Joe Damon, who seemed unable to find the plate at all. Damon faced 19 batters over two and one-third innings, walking five and hitting two batters. That included walking the game’s first two batters. Two stolen bases put runners on second and third with none out for second baseman Zach Jobes, who drove a ground single through the right side of the infield to drive both runners home and give the First Settlers a 2-0 lead, which they never relinquished. The First Settlers (2-2, 2-0) were assisted, and Damon undone, by a shaky performance from Smithtown Christian’s defense. The Crusaders (2-3, 2-3) committed six errors in the first three innings, three of which led to two unearned runs for the First Settlers in the second inning.

But it did not seem to matter what Smithtown Christian’s defense did when Jobes stepped to the plate. He finished the game going 2 for 4 with a single, a ground-rule double, two runs batted in and two runs scored. He doubled in the sixth inning off reliever Steven Massero, who pitched four and one-third innings in relief. Two batters later, third baseman Andrew Conway, who had been hitless in three at-bats, hit the first pitch he saw over the right-field fence for the First Settlers’ third home run in two days. In a 9-1 victory over Smithtown Christian on Monday afternoon, the First Settlers got home runs from Jobes and Standish, who also struck out seven in his winning effort.

On Tuesday, the First Settlers got two more runs in the first inning on right fielder John Dunne’s two-run double to right field.

Carver said, “Not the prettiest game, but we’ll take it.”