The numbers are awfully impressive.
With a 4-0 record and a 0.29 earned run average as supporting evidence, Steve Ascher is making a case for himself as one of Suffolk County high school baseball’s top pitchers.
The most recent example of Ascher’s work on the mound may be the most convincing yet. In a result that said as much about Ascher as it did about the team he plays for, he threw a three-hitter with nine strikeouts as his Mattituck Tuckers triumphed in a showdown of unbeaten League VII teams. The Tuckers beat the Elwood/John Glenn Knights, 8-1, on Monday at Mattituck High School.
“I felt like I could hit every corner, whenever I wanted,” said Ascher.
It was the sort of pitching performance the Tuckers (8-0, 7-0) have come to expect from the No. 1 pitcher in their rotation.
“It’s nice to know that you’re number one pitcher, when he goes out there, he’s going to give you a chance to win no matter who you’re going against,” said Mattituck Coach Steve De Caro.
And the Tuckers weren’t playing just anyone. Elwood/John Glenn (5-1, 5-1), a perennial power, was a league champion in 2008 and 2009 and, like Mattituck, is a serious contender for the 2011 league title.
But even the Knights had their hands full dealing with Ascher’s pitching and the Tuckers’ hitting.
“He was hitting inside, outside, throwing the curve,” said John Pierson, who started the game in left field for Elwood/John Glenn before pitching one scoreless inning of relief. “We couldn’t really do anything. He was hitting his spots good today.”
Ascher, a senior left-hander, did not give up a hit until Pierson clocked a home run — his first of the season — with one out in the top of the fifth inning. It was the only earned run that Ascher has surrendered in 24 innings this season.
“When he’s on the mound, he’s real tough,” said Elwood/John Glenn Coach Stephen Robins, the son of the late legendary Levittown Division coach, Doug Robins. Stephen Robins, who played for Levittown Division when De Caro was a coach there, said Ascher “can throw more than one pitch for a strike any time in the count [with] good velocity.”
In addition to Pierson’s home run, the other hits Ascher allowed were a single that Billy Riedel smacked in the fifth, and a check-swing single to left field by Scott Kunz in the sixth.
Ascher was supported by a healthy dose of offense. Yianni Rauseo enjoyed a three-hit day, one of those hits being his third home run of the season. Rauseo socked a two-run shot over the left-field fence, capping a five-run fourth and giving the Tuckers an 8-0 lead. Five of Mattituck’s nine hits came during that rally.
Ascher smiled at the mere mention of the eight-run insurance policy he had to work with. “That was nice,” he said. “It took all of the pressure off right there.”
Mattituck had opened that inning with a single by Ryan Finger that was followed up with back-to-back doubles by Marcos Perivolaris and George Lessard, who brought in both runners with his two-bagger.
“Today showed that we can compete with everybody and we can hit,” said Ascher.
Ascher also benefitted from a great diving catch by third baseman Travis Zurawski of a line drive smashed by Elwood/John Glenn’s Matt Toich in the fourth.
Although he did pitch deep into some counts, Ascher issued only one walk. He picked a runner off first base, to boot.
“Steven pitching is great; Steven as a leader is better,” De Caro said. “He is that guy that you want leading your team.”
“He’s a smart pitcher,” the coach continued. “He changes speeds well. He nibbles at the corners, and generally, he’s not giving you that fat pitch over the plate.”
Ascher has learned to pitch effectively when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Earlier this season, he hurled a one-hitter against the Center Moriches Red Devils, relying heavily on off-speed pitches because his fastball wasn’t completely on.
“You need to figure out what’s working, and if one pitch isn’t working you have to go to another,” he said.
On Monday, pretty much everything was working for him and the Tuckers.