KNIGHTS 6, PORTERS 1
The fickle nature of baseball may be one of its charms.
For six tight, tense innings, Smithtown Christian and Greenport engaged in a pitching battle on Wednesday. Strikeouts were not unusual (16 of them were recorded for the game), and hits seemed hard to come by.
Until the top of the seventh inning, that is.
That’s when Smithtown Christian made a breakthrough, starting with a leadoff walk by Timmy Gorton. It was the start of a six-run rally that cost the Porters a 6-1 defeat in their home opener.
“The pressure is intensified in the seventh inning,” Greenport coach Chris Golden said. “Basically, it’s who’s going to blink first?”
Jake DiNozzi (2 for 3), pinch hitter Glen Middendorf and Anthony Graziano each knocked in a run with a hit during the rally for the Knights (1-1, 1-1). DiNozzi slapped a single past the second baseman for the game’s first run. Middendorf’s single to center field fell to the ground as the center fielder slipped and fell, allowing the second run to score. A sacrifice fly by Zach DiBlanda, followed by Graziano’s run-scoring bunt single, made it 4-0. Graziano later scored on a fielder’s choice that Ronny Linsalato hit into. The Knights’ sixth run came courtesy of a double steal. Linsalato took off to steal second base, and Kyle Straker broke for home just as catcher Wilson Morales released the ball.
“Baseball is a momentum sport,” said Greenport sophomore John Drinkwater, who pitched well enough to win, but ended up taking the loss in his first varsity pitching start. “If one guy gets a hit, then the next guy gets a hit, then the bench gets fired up. Then the next guy gets a hit, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.”
Call it the snowball affect.
In what amounted to little more than some final bookkeeping, Greenport (2-1, 2-1) scored its sole run in the bottom half of the inning. Two batters after Matt Drinkwater clubbed a stand-up triple, Austin Hooks crushed a single to center field to bring him home.
Five of the game’s nine hits came in that final inning.
“Those are my favorite kind of games, the zero-zero score in the seventh inning,” John Drinkwater said. “And then you got to do it with your bat. Somebody’s got to make a big hit.”
Smithtown Christian was a bit unfortunate not to have touched home plate earlier in the game. A mix of John Drinkwater’s pitching, some good Greenport defense and just plain bad luck kept the Knights scoreless for six innings.
John Drinkwater might have liked to duplicate what his twin brother, Matt, did two days earlier when he tossed his first career no-hitter in Greenport’s season opener at Shelter Island. Interestingly, John is a left-hander while his brother is a righty.
John Drinkwater was charged with three earned runs and three hits in six-plus innings. He had six walks and six strikeouts before tiring after throwing around 100 pitches and making way for Hooks.
The odds were stacked against Greenport. The Porters were facing a Smithtown Christian team that reached the state regional semifinals last year and went 14-7, the best record the team ever had, according to coach Craig Gorton. Only three starters graduated from that team. As if that wasn’t enough, the Porters had to make do without two first-string players, catcher Christian Angelson and outfielder Ivan Novick, who were both out of town on trips.
To help out, Greenport had three callups from the junior varsity team: left fielder Neville Reese, right fielder Willie Riggens and designated hitter Jason Van Brunt. It was Riggens’ varsity debut.
“They were nervous,” John Drinkwater said, “but they played great through the nerves.”
Reese may have saved a run single-handedly with his speed and his glove. In the third inning, with a runner on base, Reese made a quick course correction for a nifty backhanded grab of a ball laced by Vinny Ciaravino.
“That might have been the play of the game,” said Golden.
Craig Gorton, referring to that play and a couple of others by Greenport’s defense, said: “That’s the game of baseball sometimes. You don’t get the breaks. We finally got some breaks in the seventh inning.”
Linsalato picked up the win, throwing four innings of two-hit ball in relief of Ciaravino. Ciaravino gave up two hits, no walks and struck out six in his 45-pitch effort over three innings.
“We played excellent,” Greenport shortstop Timmy Stevens said. “We can’t get down on ourselves. They’re a pretty good team. They hit the ball well. We just have to work on hitting. I think our team is very defensively sound. If we play a good defensive game, we have a good chance to beat anybody in our league.”