Baseball: With five-run rally, Southold forces decisive Game 3

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | Southold center fielder Shayne Johnson made a valiant attempt, but was unable to get to a fly ball by Pierson/Bridgehampton's Colman Vila that fell for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.


The Southold baseball team had already found that errors can be contagious (see Game 1 of the Suffolk County Class C finals). But, to their relief, the First Settlers have also discovered that hits and runs can come in bunches, too.

Facing a must-win situation, Southold did what it had to do on Thursday: It won.

Southold saw to it that a decisive third game will be needed to settle the county finals. The First Settlers scored all of their runs in the fourth inning and those runs held up for a 5-4 triumph over Pierson/Bridgehampton in Game 2 at Southold High School. Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

Southold (14-8) didn’t have a hit in the game — or a run in the series — until the fourth inning when it overcame a 1-0 deficit with a five-run rally that included four of the team’s five hits. Following run-scoring singles by Anthony Fedele, Alex Poliwoda and Matt Reilly, Kyle Clausen stroked a two-run single to cap the scoring burst.

Putting the bat to the ball like that was just what the First Settlers needed.

“We had to win,” said Fedele, the sophomore catcher who provided his team with two singles, a run and a stolen base. “We just had to come through, and we did.”

What prompted that rally?

“Who knows?” Southold coach Mike Carver said. “I’ve been coaching for 17 years. … I still can’t figure what makes them tick.”

The First Settlers had the incentive of preventing their final game of the year on their home field from becoming their final game of the year, period. They didn’t have the luxury of affording a loss.

“Survival,” Carver muttered to a reporter afterward. “Survival.”

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | Southold senior pitcher Will Fujita turned in a complete-game performance with seven strikeouts in Game 2.

Indeed, it was a matter of survival for Southold, which then had to hold off surging Pierson/Bridgehampton (19-3). The Whalers pulled three runs back, including two in the sixth when they made it a one-run game. Hunter Leyser blasted a ball off third baseman Luke Hokanson for a fielder’s choice that scored Sean Hartnett. Then Colman Vila singled despite a valiant diving attempt by center fielder Shayne Johnson, scoring pinch runner Harley Decker and pulling the Whalers to within 5-4.

But then, with runners on the corners, Southold pitcher Will Fujita struck out Forest Loesch to end the threat. It was the sixth of Fujita’s seven strikeouts on the day. The senior right-hander went the distance, scattering seven hits, walking four and hitting a batter. He allowed two earned runs.

It was Fujita who earned a win against League IX champion Pierson/Bridgehampton during the regular season.

“I knew he could do it again,” Fedele said. “He’s clutch.”

Southold didn’t play a flawless game. After committing four errors in Game 1, the First Settlers made another three on Thursday.

But errors can giveth as well as taketh. It was a throwing error — the first of two by Pierson/Bridgehampton in the fourth — off a Fujita ground ball that started Southold’s rally.

“These games are going to come down to whoever doesn’t make mistakes,” Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Jon Tortorella said. “If you can play a clean game, you’re going to win. It’s as simple as that.”

Pierson/Bridgehampton’s designated hitter, Mike Heller, who had a two-hit day, said: “We didn’t come out with the killer attitude, and we need to do that the next game. We let it get away from us. We made a couple of mental mistakes, and it just kept snowballing.”

Like Fujita, Pierson/Bridgehampton’s starting pitcher, Jake Bennett, threw a complete game. He struck out five and issued five walks. Only one of the runs he allowed was earned.

Now both sides look ahead to a final showdown on Tuesday. Winner take all.

A rematch of the teams’ top pitchers, Clausen and Vila, is expected. They hurled a double two-hitter in Game 1.

“We have all the momentum right now, and we have to carry that,” said Fujita.

At the same time, Pierson/Bridgehampton hasn’t lost a game at Mashashimuet Park this year. And, as the one-run margins in the first two games attest, the teams have been razor close.

“What it is now is it’s a one-game series,” Tortorella said. “That’s it. So, what happened today is done. What happened yesterday is done. It’s one game for the Suffolk County championship.”

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