Baseball: Center Moriches’ ace closes the door on Mattituck

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck catcher Nick Bieber tagged out Jeff Foster at home plate to end the fifth inning Friday, although Center Moriches argued he dropped the ball.


Going into Friday morning’s game against Mattituck, Center Moriches coach Mike Garofola figured he could maybe get an inning of relief from Patrick Bryant, the team’s No. 1 pitcher.

When the two first two Tuckers reached base to start the sixth inning at Center Moriches High School to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs, it was time for Bryant.

“I said if you’re only going to give us one, let it be now and get us out of this jam,” Garofola said.

Bryant, who started the game at shortstop, pitched like an ace with three straight strikeouts to close out the sixth inning. He only needed 12 pitches, so he came back out for the seventh to finish off the save and preserve a 6-3 Center Moriches victory.

The Tuckers got one runner on in the seventh, but Travis Zurawski grounded into a double play to end the game. Bryant threw 19 pitches over two innings of relief, a stark contrast to the way the game started for both team’s pitchers.

“First pitch ground out, then the double play helps,” Garofola said.

The Tuckers came into the game off a 21-4 drubbing the day before.

“I think the boys were ready for this game,” said Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro. “We made some real good plays out there. We’re trying to look at the positive.”

After pounding the ball all over the field Thursday, Center Moriches managed only two hits against the Tuckers Friday. It was all they needed, however, thanks to seven walks through the first three innings.

A bevy of wild pitches and passed balls compounded the problem.

Center Moriches scored four in the third to open up a 6-1 lead. The Red Devils were clutch with two out, just as they were a day earlier. Catcher Jeff Foster singled to right field to bring in the Red Devils’ third run. The next two batters walked and with Tyler Simpson at the plate, a wild pitch brought home a fourth run. Simpson then singled to right field to bring in two more runs.

Cameron Burt took the loss for Mattituck. He started to settle in after the third inning, but with his pitch count escelating, the Tuckers went to the bullpen in the sixth with John Schultz.

“He looked good later on,” DeCaro said of Burt. “But by the end he was already at a decent pitch count so it was time to take him out.”

The Tuckers had some chances at the plate early in the game. They left two in scoring position in the first, and scored only one run after getting runners to second and third with nobody out in the third.

“We couldn’t get that big hit,” DeCaro said.

Zurawski hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Schultz for the Tuckers’ first run. In the fourth inning the Tuckers loaded the bases with no outs. Brian Pelan grounded out to third for an RBI to make it 6-2. Schultz followed with an RBI groundout to second.

“We needed the big hits and they just weren’t showing up today,” DeCaro said.

Mattituck turned a controversial double play in the fifth inning. Matt Schilling flew out to left field with a runner on third. James Finora made the grab and threw home to get Foster at the plate. Center Moriches argued that Mattituck catcher Nick Bieber dropped the ball after applying the tag. A cloud of dirt kicked up on the play as Foster slid into home. The umpire ruled Bieber held onto the ball long enough for the out.

“I want to choose to believe my catcher would never drop that ball,” DeCaro said. “So I’m saying he’s out.”

Center Moriches won for the third time in four meetings against Mattituck this season. The win also moved the Red Devils (5-3) a game ahead of Mattituck (4-4) in the League VIII standings.

“Right now our biggest problem is throwing strikes,” DeCaro said.

The Red Devils had their own issues with five walks.

Mattituck opens up a three-game series with McGann-Mercy Monday.

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