FIRST SETTLERS 6, PORTERS 1
The team of the future has a present.
With an influx of young players after having lost seven players from last year’s Suffolk County Class C runner-up baseball team, Southold is regarded as a team built for next year, if not the year after that. Reaching the playoffs was a goal for Southold, but it would have been understandable if the First Settlers fell short of it. The fact that they didn’t, though, says a lot for their progress. Southold is a young team that doesn’t play like a young team, and by all appearances, the team is a little ahead of schedule in its development.
Southold’s near future will feature a second straight appearance in the postseason thanks to a playoff-clinching 6-1 win over Greenport at Southold High School on Monday. The season-ending League IX series will continue Thursday in Greenport and Friday in Southold.
“We knew we were going to be right on that cusp of whether we were going to be a playoff team or not,” Southold coach Mike Carver said. “We knew we were young. We lost a lot [of players from last year]. Considering what we lost and what we put together so far, it’s a huge accomplishment for them. It wasn’t a sure bet that we’d be a playoff team this year. We earned it.”
They did so on Monday with no small help from Alex Poliwoda. Poliwoda had a good day, on the mound and in the batter’s box. As a pitcher, he went the distance, allowing one run and six hits. The sophomore right-hander walked two against six strikeouts. He also went 3 for 3 at the plate, driving in two runs.
Rob Mahony added a pair of hits, including a run-scoring single for Southold (11-7, 11-7).
Matt Drinkwater singled twice for Greenport (7-11, 7-11), which had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Two first-inning errors allowed Southold to jump out to a 2-0 lead, with the runs scoring on an infield single by Poliwoda and a sharp single to center field by Mahony.
But Greenport kept the game tight. Drinkwater led off the fourth inning by smacking a single. He later scored on Christian Angelson’s sacrifice fly, cutting Southold’s lead to one run.
The score remained 2-1 until the fifth. Southold opened its half of the inning with three straight hits — a lined single by Shayne Johnson, a single by Anthony Fedele that bounced past the diving third baseman, Drinkwater, and a double crushed by Poliwoda — for a 4-1 lead. Poliwoda scored himself that inning on a throwing error for a 5-1 lead.
Southold capped the scoring in the sixth when Johnson bunted Sean Moran home on a squeeze play.
“We’ve done more squeeze plays this year than I’ve done, I think, in all the years I coached, and have been successful,” said Carver.
Southold also had some timely hitting, going 4 for 13. “We got the clutch base hits that we needed today,” said Carver.
Greenport, on the other hand, left two runners stranded in each of four innings and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
“You can’t leave runners on base,” Angelson said. “What are you going to do about it, though?”
Greenport coach Chris Golden said: “Baseball’s a game of little subtleties. We could have used a few Texas leaguers and a few things to drop in there.”
“We were right in it,” he added. “We’re not going to dwell on the what-ifs and would have, could have, should haves. That’s pointless.”
On Friday, Southold put itself in a great position to seal a playoff invitation when Mahony pitched a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 upset of Smithtown Christian.
Now Southold is playing for a favorable playoff seeding. After a rocky start to the season, the First Settlers can take pride in a much-improved defense. They have come a long way, said Mahony.
“The first two weeks of the season we looked very sloppy,” he said. “We spent a solid week just taking ground balls. That was our focus.”
Now the First Settlers can focus on the playoffs. They have extended their season at least another week.
Said Mahony, “We all just want to keep on playing.”