Baseball: Southold victimized by triple play on opening day

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kyle Clausen went the distance, pitching for Southold in its season-opening loss at Smithtown Christian.


The charm of opening day wore off soon enough for the Southold baseball team. Some misfortune on the basepaths and hitting into a rare triple play will do that to a team.

Smithtown Christian’s catcher and cleanup hitter, Tim Gorton, had a big day in the Suffolk County League IX game in Smithtown on Thursday. Gorton drove in five of his team’s runs on 4-for-4 hitting that included a pair of doubles as the Knights downed the First Settlers, 6-1.

It also helped Smithtown Christian that it had a Prince on the mound. Dylan Prince, a senior right-hander, pitched a four-hitter.

Prince was aided in the fourth inning by the triple play. Kyle Clausen of Southold stepped into the batter’s box with two runners on base from a Lucas Hokanson single and a Shayne Johnson walk. Clausen tapped a bouncer to the shortstop, Dom Damon, who stepped on the second-base bag for the forceout before firing to first baseman Seth Connell. The alert Connell then turned and threw to Gorton. Hokanson, who tried to score from second base on the play, was easily tagged out for Smithtown Christian’s first triple play in at least five years, according to coach Craig Gorton, the catcher’s father.

Score it 6-6-3-2.

Tim Gorton said he had been involved in triple plays before, “but I don’t know about one like that.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Matt Stepnoski of Southold had his face in the dust when he was tagged out by Smithtown Christian third baseman Tim Steffens in the second inning.

That was the second time in which Southold started an inning with two runners on base, only to come away empty-handed.

“It wasn’t our day,” said Southold shortstop Rob Mahony.

Even though Southold put its first two runners on base in the second inning, it wasn’t able to score. After Matt Stepnoski drove a double into the left-center-field gap, Mahony was grazed on the forearm by a pitch. Then, after a throw from Tim Gorton got away from the pitcher, Stepnoski tried to move up a base, but was thrown out at third. Prince then induced Anthony Fedele to ground into a double play.

“You saw it,” Southold’s glum-sounding coach, Mike Carver, said. “We blew those two innings, first and second, nobody out — twice. That’s the game right there.”

Tim Gorton had a heck of a game. With singles to left field in the first and third innings, he brought home the game’s first two runs. Then Gorton whacked a double to left-center for a 3-0 lead in the fifth. It was one of four hits during the inning by the Knights. One of those hits was a run-scoring single by Connell.

But Gorton’s biggest hit of the day was his last one, a two-run jolt over the right fielder that was good for a double in the sixth. It was the 10th and final hit of the game for Smithtown Christian.

“He doesn’t try to do too much,” Craig Gorton said of his son. “He just hits it where it’s pitched. … He’s not trying to pull the ball all the time.”

Prince also had a productive day at the plate, delivering a pair of triples and scoring twice in addition to being hit by a pitch.

The only Southold run was unearned. Alex Sinclair reached base in the sixth when an outfielder couldn’t hold onto his popup. Later, Sinclair scored when Johnson sliced a single that landed near the right-field line.

But Prince pitched a smart game, gathering four strikeouts against one walk. He threw 82 pitches in the warm weather.

“That was a veteran performance,” said Craig Gorton.

The game surely didn’t start Southold’s way. In the first inning Jeremiah Shaw, a Smithtown Christian freshman, worked out a 12-pitch walk in his first varsity plate appearance. He went to second base on a dropped fly ball before being driven home by Gorton.

“I think we did a lot of things right,” Tim Gorton said. “The big thing is that we capitalized. We didn’t make mistakes.”

Mahony, although clearly unhappy with the result, along with the rest of his teammates, gave credit where it was due. “I think they were a better team than we thought,” he said. “I think we came in here thinking that we were going to be able to beat them. I think they really showed what kind of a team they really were.”

With the 2012 season opener, the first of 20 league games, over, Carver was ready to look ahead to better days and better games for his side.

He said, “Nineteen more to go.”

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