TUCKERS 6, MARINERS 2
It’s not easy pitching a baseball when the weather is cold, in the mid-40s, and it’s raining. It’s not easy hitting a ball under those conditions, either.
That didn’t stop the Mattituck Tuckers in the opener to their three-game Suffolk County League VIII series against the Southampton Mariners on Tuesday. Joe Tardif fired 11 strikeouts and James Nish crushed a tie-breaking home run, propelling the unbeaten Tuckers to a 6-2 triumph at Mattituck High School, their fourth win from as many games.
With the score tied at 2-2, Ian Nish started off Mattituck’s half of the sixth inning by roping a double to left field and sliding under the throw into second base. His twin brother, James, then showed opposite-field power, poking his first home run of the season over the right-field fence and jump-starting a four-run burst for the Tuckers. The next batter, Will Gildersleeve, was hit by a pitch before later scoring on a wild pitch. A junior pinch hitter, Joe Graeb, socked a single for his first varsity hit and was brought home on a lined single by Tardif for the game’s final run.
The game was played under a steady drizzle, and that wasn’t the only thing Tardif (1-0) had to contend with. The senior right-hander has been battling flu-like symptoms. He was sent home from Monday’s practice to rest.
The first inning was a rocky one for both teams. Tardif showed some uncharacteristic trouble with his control that inning, walking the game’s first two batters, who scored when Garrett Pike drove a double over the left fielder, James Nish. Southampton has yet to play on its home field and was playing its first game on a grass field. The Mariners showed rust, making four errors in the first and allowing two unearned runs.
From there the game evolved into a pitching duel between Pike (1-1) and Tardif.
Tardif, using a knuckle-drop pitch to great effect, gave the Mariners (2-2, 2-2) fits. He twice struck out the side and strung together six strikeouts in a row. Over the course of 11 plate appearances by Southampton, Tardif had 10 strikeouts. Four of his strikeouts came on called third strikes.
Batting in the leadoff spot, Tardif had a double, a single, and was robbed of a hit by diving right fielder Nick Marano. He also stole two bases.
Following the Tuckers’ four-run rally in the sixth, Tardif was moved to center field and Chris Dwyer pitched the final inning. Tardif said his arm felt good after a 101-pitch outing in which he gave up only two hits. In the eight innings he has pitched so far in this young season, Tardif has conceded only two runs and two hits, striking out 14 and walking four.
After a season-opening three-game sweep of Hampton Bays, during which it outscored the Baymen by 26-4, the Tuckers faced their biggest test yet in the Mariners.