STONY BROOK — Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Coach John Musmacker had no reason to think that his Stony Brook School baseball team would solve Greenport right-hander Mark Pagano on Monday.
Until then, Pagano had hurled a masterpiece, having surrendered but one hit, facing only four batters over the minimum and striking out five of his last six batters.
“The way he was going, I did think he was going to dominate,” Musmacker said. “The kid was really, really good.”
As it turned out, the Bears turned out to be better in the sixth, rallying for three runs in what turned into a 3-1 victory over Greenport in a Suffolk County League VIII game.
It was Stony Brook’s second consecutive triumph after going three years without a win. The Bears (2-8, 2-8) had broken the streak with an 11-9 victory over Southold on Friday.
“They are in an adjustment period right now,” Musmacker said of his team. “They are learning how to win.”
Greenport Coach Mike Reed, who does not like to lose, was in no mood to talk and refused to speak to the media afterwards. He said he was angry with his team’s performance.
Reed did not like what he had witnessed, which included losing the lead, having players thrown out trying to advance an extra base four times and the lack of clutch hitting. In the seventh, the Porters (4-6, 4-8) had runners on second and third with no outs and loaded the bases with one out, but could not score.
That was after Stony Brook staged its rally against Pagano, who was virtually unhittable, allowing only Ryan Haas’ second-inning single until then while striking seven and hitting two batters. He threw 89 pitches in the game.
But the Bears found a way to get to Pagano. Pablo Celis and Don Liotine both singled to right before a wild pitch moved them over. Haas laced a single to center to drive in two runs, giving Stony Brook a 2-1 lead. After striking out two more batters, Pagano allowed a triple to left-center field by Dan Collasanto to drive in the final run.
“We strung together two or three really good at-bats in the bottom of the sixth,” Musmacker said. “It wasn’t because of [Pagano] not battling. He did a really good job.
“I didn’t think the kid lost anything. I thought he was as good in the sixth inning as he was in the first inning.”
Greenport made it interesting in the top of the seventh as Anthony Nichols singled and Sean Charters doubled, prompting Musmacker to pull reliever and winning pitcher Jerome Washington for Liotine. The right-hander struck out Austin Hooks and loaded the bases by hitting Harley Britt. But Liotine got out of the jam by inducing Brian Tuthill to pop up to him and Pagano to ground out to second.
The Porters played aggressive baseball and they sometimes paid for it. They had runners thrown out at second, third and home.
Pagano was gunned down trying to steal third base after he stole second in the first inning. Charters was picked off by Collasanto, the Bears’ starter, after reaching second in the second. Michael Reed was tagged out at home trying for a triple after driving in Shawn Hansen (single) in the fourth. Reed was thrown out trying to steal second in the sixth and Bryant Rivas was retired, attempting to advance from first base on a wild pitch a batter later.
Celis, a converted shortstop playing only his second game at catcher, threw out both runners in the sixth.
“I was lucky because the ball bounced off the fence,” he said on one of his throws on the wild pitch. “I felt really good throwing that guy out.
“I felt comfortable behind the plate.”
Musmacker said he has been looking for the right combinations.
“Just through trying different things, trying people at different positions, finding the right place for each player,” he said. “It turned out that our shortstop was probably a better fit for us behind the plate.”
The Porters will have another opportunity to test Celis’ right arm and Stony Brook as they will host Bears on Wednesday before returning here on Friday for the third and final game of the series.