TUCKERS 10, ROYALS 2
As far as championship celebrations go, it was rather sedate. After the Mattituck High School baseball team clinched the Suffolk County League VIII title outright on Tuesday, there were some handshakes, some slaps on the back and a hug or two before the players dug into some fudge that was passed around.
That was it. Nothing crazy.
The Tuckers’ businesslike manner could be attributed to an expectation of even better things to come down the road. They hope it was the first of a succession of five celebrations. The remaining celebrations, as outlined by coach Steve DeCaro, would be for county, Long Island, Southeast Region and New York State championships.
For now, though, the Tuckers can take some time to enjoy their first league crown since 2007. Having earlier assured themselves of at least a share of the title, the Tuckers made certain that they will not have to share it with anyone thanks to their 10-2 defeat of Port Jefferson/Knox in the first game of a regular-season-ending, three-game series.
“We just had the same mind-set that we had the whole season: just win,” said first baseman James Nish.
And they did. Cameron Burt pitched a two-hitter in the game at Mattituck High School and he enjoyed plenty of offensive support from his friends. The Tuckers (16-2, 15-1) have been an offensive dynamo this season, averaging over eight runs per game while allowing a little over three.
“We’re strong one through nine and through the bench,” DeCaro said. “There’s not a guy on this team who can’t hit.”
It’s a lineup with no apparent weaknesses.
“We don’t have any holes,” Burt said. “Every single position is filled by an absolute stud.”
Mattituck’s No. 9 batter, for example, is the more than capable Will Gildersleeve. “He could be a three batter on another team,” said Burt.
The Tuckers produced 12 hits Tuesday, including three by Marcos Perivolaris. Nish delivered his third home run of the season, scoring two runs. Chris Dwyer also brought in a pair of runs from a triple and a double. Seven of Mattituck’s nine starters had at least one hit.
In other words, it was a typical performance by the hard-swinging Tuckers.
“Our offense is just amazing,” Nish said. “You can’t deny it.”
Meanwhile, Burt (6-1), the senior right-hander who is headed to play for Queens College after graduation, had his pitches moving like a whiffle ball at times. Burt struck out eight, issued six walks and hit a batter. He threw 120 pitches.
Both of Port Jefferson/Knox’s hits were doubles off the bat of Andy Vasquez, who broke the ice when he led off the fourth inning with a well-struck shot.
Vasquez’s second double came in the fifth and scored a run on an interesting play. The Royals (7-9, 7-9) had two runners on base, Mike Laffy and Ben Kluender. When Vasquez made contact, they both charged around the bases, with Kluender running on Laffy’s tail. When the throw came home, catcher Brian Pelan made a sweeping attempt at tagging both of them in a bang-bang play. Laffy was ruled safe, and Kluender was called out.
The Tuckers, who are good for a breakout inning or two or three, snapped a 1-1 tie in the third. They struck for five runs that inning.
For additional security, the Tuckers tacked on four more runs in the sixth, the last two of them coming on Nish’s homer over the right-field fence. Nish said he hit the ball on the end of his bat and had expected it to be merely a popup.
“We kind of knew going into it that this was going to be a good day,” said Dwyer.
League titles do not come easily, or often. This is Mattituck’s fourth league championship in 17 years. The Tuckers shared a league title with Southold/Greenport in 2005, after finishing in first place in 1997.
DeCaro said this latest achievement was satisfying because his players deserved it. Asked what he likes best about the team, the coach replied: “Honestly, the best thing is that they’re just really good kids. They work hard in school. They’re nice kids. … It’s fun to be around them.”
Then, to state the obvious, he added, “They’re pretty good baseball players, too.”
That’s a point the rest of League VIII would readily acknowledge.