GARRET MEADE PHOTO
Mattituck’s starting pitcher, Steve Ascher, registered 10 strikeouts against Hampton Bays. After the game he received an ejection, along with the team’s assistant coach, Gene Rochler.
HAMPTON BAYS — This high school baseball game seemed to have it all: heroes, controversy, drama, ejections. The one thing it didn’t have for the Mattituck Tuckers, though, was a victory. That went to the Hampton Bays Baymen.
A wild game that featured three ejections from the Mattituck side as well as a compelling series of twists and turns went Hampton Bays’ way on Tuesday. Robbie King’s single with none out in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Baymen a thrilling 6-5 victory in the opener of a three-game Suffolk County League VII series.
Nick Cannata led off the bottom of the eighth by drawing a walk. Hampton Bays (5-10, 3-10) then had runners on the first and second bases after Devin Havens reached base on a fielder’s choice. That set the stage for King, who delivered the game-winning hit, sending Cannata home to a welcoming committee of joyous, jumping teammates.
King, a junior center fielder who went 4 for 5, said the only thought on his mind was, “Just get on base.” After coming through in the clutch with the biggest hit and run batted in of his career, he said, “It felt good.”
Hampton Bays Coach Pete Meehan, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak, said, “When the wins are few and far between, they certainly mean a lot.”
Players and coaches from the Mattituck dugout had expressed displeasure with several calls by the umpires. That set the tone for the ejection of Mattituck Coach Steve De Caro in the eighth inning. De Caro was upset with a controversial runner interference call against one of his players, Tom Ascher, in the top of the eighth. The call led to the end of that half of the inning. Mattituck’s assistant coach, Gene Rochler, was the first to voice his objection to the decision before De Caro trotted over to take up the argument. De Caro returned to the dugout, but continued voicing his unhappiness with the game’s officiating. Finally, the home-plate umpire had heard enough, and De Caro was tossed.
Talking apparently continued after the game, and ejections were also issued to Mattituck’s starting pitcher, Steve Ascher, and Rochler. Ejections carry automatic one-game suspensions.
It was that kind of a game, the kind that players had difficulty finding words to describe.
“A crazy game, but I have to say you can’t really put it into words,” Mattituck right fielder Dan Letteriello said. “It came down to the wire, and we kind of folded at the end there.”
The third straight loss hurt Mattituck (5-10, 3-10) in more ways than one. With five regular-season games remaining, the Tuckers would need to be granted a waiver in order to gain entry into the playoffs.
“It was a hard one,” Letteriello said. “We needed to win this one.”
And what about the Baymen? Do they have hopes of seeing the postseason through the waiver route as well?
“I don’t even bring up the ‘P’ word,” Meehan said. “I suppose anything is possible, but it’s not somewhere I go; it’s not something I talk about, but [the players] do.”
Tuesday’s game provided a great deal to talk about. Mattituck fell behind, 4-1, by the second inning before tying the score at 4-4 in the fifth, with the help of a two-run homer by Greg Siliris, who went 3 for 4.
Mattituck appeared on the verge of securing the win in the seventh, when it pulled ahead, 5-4. Letteriello’s infield single was big. Then, after two wild pitches and a throwing error, pinch runner Jason Manzo scored the go-ahead run.
But the top of the Hampton Bays order came to bat in the bottom half of the inning. Successive singles by King and Kyle Palazzolo, sandwiched around a stolen base by King and a wild pitch, brought in the tying run. But the Baymen looked set to cause more damage, loading the bases with one out. Steve Ascher, however, kept his cool and recorded back-to-back strikeouts — his ninth and 10th of the game — to end the threat.
Palazzolo drove in three runs, the first two coming on his connection with a low pitch for a home run in the first inning.
The Baymen were also aggressive on the basepaths, stealing seven bases, including two by King.
In the end, though, it came down to a big swing by King at the right moment.
“The one-run games are the ones that stick with you, win or lose,” Meehan said. “That was going to be a tough loss for somebody. Fortunately, it was not us today.”