TUCKERS 4, PANTHERS 3
It was a cold, windy day that might not have been fit for man or beast, but baseball players — a sturdy lot — had to deal with it.
The temperature was in the 30s, but Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said that with 21-mile-per-hour winds, the wind-chill factor made it feel as if it was 27 degrees.
Actually, it was nothing new for the Tuckers. This has been a rough early spring in terms of the weather.
“It’s very tough,” Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris said. “You just need to keep your hands warm anyway you can.”
DeCaro believes his players are actually getting used to playing in the frigid conditions. “When I look down the bench I see guys that look like they’re frozen,” he said. “I’m seeing less of that now, more guys who want to get up and play. If it can stay like this the rest of the year, we’ll be fine. We might go undefeated.”
An undefeated season is already out of the question because of a season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach, but Mattituck could make a run at a perfect league season. The Tuckers took the first step in that direction on Monday. Mattituck scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and then withstood three errors in the top of the seventh to overtake defending Long Island Class B champion Babylon, 4-3, in an exciting Suffolk County League VIII opener for both teams.
The Tuckers (1-1, 1-0), who snapped a seven-game losing streak, produced four of their six hits in the sixth. Perivolaris led off by tagging a stand-up double that might have been a home run had the wind not been blowing in, and then Ian Nish belted a bad-hop hit under the third baseman’s glove. Shortly after that, Perivolaris scored on a wild pitch, tying the score at 2-2. Austin Pase then stroked a single to bring home the go-ahead run, and Brian Pelan knocked a chopper that took a high bounce over the first baseman for a hit, making it 4-2.
But Babylon (1-2, 0-1) made things interesting in the seventh, thanks in part to some fielding adventures by the Tuckers.
“Honestly, I don’t like exciting games,” DeCaro said. “I like 11-nothing or something like that. If we could have ended [at] 4-2, it would have been fine. Instead, we had to make it really interesting.”
Jack Curcio, who reached base on a leadoff walk for Babylon, later scored when teammate Joe Savastano stole second base and the throw ended up in the outfield. That enabled Savastano to scoot over to third base with two out. Matt Finelli then drove a fly ball to deep right field, and John Schultz showed why he is a three-year varsity starter. Schultz made a good play on the ball, backtracking and catching it for the game’s final out.
“It was one of the best catches he ever made here,” said DeCaro.
Mattituck pitchers Cameron Burt and Chris Dwyer allowed Babylon only two hits for the game. Burt worked the first five innings. “I’ve never thrown my fastball as well as I did today,” he said.
Burt had a no-hitter through four innings before Curcio led off the fifth, socking a ball straight ahead, under Burt. Perivolaris charged to his left but was unable to control the difficult ball. Kyle Dowling, a pinch runner for Curcio, later scored when Pete Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice for a 2-1 Babylon lead.
Burt walked six against seven strikeouts. Dwyer got the win in two innings of one-hit relief, with one walk and three strikeouts. The only hit Dwyer allowed was a soft, bloop single to shallow center field by Jack Facciebene to lead off the sixth.
Babylon was first to get on Mattituck High School’s new scoreboard. The Panthers put up a run in the second without the aid of a hit. A walk, a steal, another walk and a sacrifice bunt preceded Ricky Negron’s run off a wild pitch.
Mattituck evened things in the third. With two outs, a throwing error allowed Joe Tardif to reach second base. Then Dwyer clocked a double to bring him home.
Perivolaris was a big reason why Babylon was hitless through four innings. In the fourth, Nick Crawford knocked what looked like a sure hit deep into the hole between third base and shortstop. Perivolaris reached to his right to backhand the ball near the edge of the outfield grass. Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, obviously sensing that Perivolaris had no play on the ball, yelled, “Eat it!”
“He threw him out instead,” DeCaro said. “That was the Marcos that we expect. That was beautiful.”
Of course, the weather could have been worse. It could have been colder, windier and snowing. Snow was forecast for later in the day.
“I don’t know how they do it,” Babylon coach Anthony Sparacio said of the players performing under adverse conditions. “I’m frozen to the bone. It’s amazing how these kids can stay out there. It’s not even baseball weather. No fun.”
As cold as it was, DeCaro said he has experienced worse, not that long ago, either. He said Mattituck’s 9-3 season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach last Thursday was even worse. “That was the coldest game, the most miserable conditions I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything worse than that game.”
Spring isn’t over, Coach.