TUCKERS 7, MONARCHS 6
Standings aside, not all wins are equal, and the same goes for losses. Both the Bishop McGann-Mercy and Mattituck high school baseball teams, looking at the issue from opposing sides on Monday, would readily agree to that.
As exhilarating as Mattituck’s 7-6 triumph over McGann-Mercy must have felt for the winners, it was a rough result for the losers to swallow.
Probably no one felt better than James Finora.
Mattituck’s senior designated hitter is not often in the limelight, but when the spotlight shined on him in the bottom of the seventh inning at Mattituck High School, he delivered. Finora socked a walk-off single with one out to score George Lessard and give Mattituck (5-4 overall and in Suffolk County League VIII) a rousing comeback victory. It was his third run batted in of the game.
Finora welcomed the opportunity to step into the batter’s box with a chance to end the game. “It’s just more exciting,” he said. “All at-bats are important and you got to be smart about them, but with guys on [base], especially with a tied game, it’s the best time to get up.”
Finora’s first career walk-off hit gave Mattituck its first and only lead of the day.
Mattituck trailed virtually the entire game and was down by 6-2 in the third inning. But the Tuckers clawed their way back, earning themselves a chance to win it in the seventh. Lessard worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch and stole second base (his third steal of the game) before McGann-Mercy coach Ed Meier called for Cameron Burt to be intentionally walked. That set the stage for Finora’s game-winning hit on a 2-0 count, bringing home Lessard for his third run of the game.
Finora couldn’t say what type of pitch he connected on, remarking only that “it was a good pitch to hit.”
It was the second big hit of the game for Finora. He also clubbed a two-run single in the fifth, cutting McGann-Mercy’s lead to 6-5.
“This is the biggest game he ever had in his life, and we enjoyed it,” Mattituck coach Steve De Caro said. “He was having a grand time up there. … A lot of guys don’t want that pressure.”
Mattituck, which put up at least one run in five of the seven innings, tied the score at 6-6 in the sixth. John Schultz stroked a stand-up double, went to third base on a passed ball, and then scored on a groundout by Marcos Perivolaris.
The game had started so promisingly for McGann-Mercy (3-6, 3-6) and its coach, who was seeking his 100th career win. The Monarchs’ first two batters in the first, Owen Gilpin and Joe Crosser, reached base on an error and a slow-rolling infield single, respectively. Two outs later, Christian Lynch pounded a 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence for his first home run of the season and a 3-0 lead.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Lynch said. “I’ve been struggling with my bat, and I just wanted to hit the ball hard.”
McGann-Mercy tacked on another run in the second and two more in the third, but was held scoreless after that.
“Unfortunately, that’s kind of become our M.O., which is something you don’t want,” Meier said. “We strike early and then we don’t tack on runs. It’s something we have to take care of.”
Perivolaris handled most of the pitching for Mattituck, working the first six innings. He allowed six hits, one walk and had six strikeouts. Two of the six runs scored against him were earned. But it was Burt who picked up the win, retiring three of the four batters he faced.
“Yeah, it was a tough game, a tough game to lose,” Meier said. “I mean, you never want to lose, but that’s a game you especially don’t want to lose.”
The result was a little sweeter for Mattituck in that it came against McGann-Mercy’s ace pitcher, Patrick Stepnoski. Stepnoski pitched five-plus innings with eight strikeouts before he was relieved by Crosser.
“We just feel apart at the end,” Lynch said. “Yeah, it’s really tough, especially when you have Pat battling out there. We’re a good team, and we got to start playing better. I mean, that’s all it is. We got to start doing the little things.”
Mattituck, which is 2-0 against McGann-Mercy this season, will face the Monarchs a third time on Thursday, with the finale of the four-game series Friday in Mattituck. The Tuckers, it would seem, gained a boost by the way they salvaged a victory from the jaws of defeat on Monday.
“We’ve been down this season before, and sometimes we came back and sometimes we haven’t,” Finora said, “but we weren’t going to let this one slip through our fingers.”