Baseball: These days the First Settlers are sitting pretty

Life is good for Southold High School baseball these days.

If such an award was given, the First Settlers would be in contention to be the Suffolk County comeback team of the year. Just look at where they were positioned entering this week’s action: atop League IX with overall and league records of 8-1. After winning their first five games of the season, the First Settlers dropped their only loss (2-1 to Smithtown Christian) before embarking on another win streak, taking three in a row.

“It’s a good feeling sitting where we are right now,” coach Mike Carver said. “It’s one of those years when things are going well and you get a little luck.”

Luck or skill? Maybe a mix of both.

The team’s No. 1 pitcher, senior Alex Poliwoda, is 4-0. Liam Walker, a senior right fielder playing baseball for the first time since he was in eighth grade, is playing like a league MVP. The pitching has been reliable, the defense has been sound.

Nine games into a 20-game schedule, the First Settlers’ magic number for sealing a playoff spot is two.

“The team is definitely resilient,” Carver said. “I think that would definitely be the best word. They don’t give up. … Whenever the other team goes up, they’ve been able to answer back.”

That was seen in a recent three-game sweep of Port Jefferson. The First Settlers came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first game of the series to triumph, 8-7, in eight innings. They overcame a 3-0 hole in the third game to triumph, 10-7, also in eight innings. In between was a 10-2 blowout in Southold’s favor.

In the 10-7 win last Thursday, Walker delivered a line-drive home run, the first of his brief varsity career, to bring in three runs.

“What a year he’s having,” Carver said of Walker, who was hitting over .500. “He’s probably my most consistent hitter right now. I’m not cutting him any slack right now. When he gets up there, I expect him to get a base hit.”

Poliwoda hit two homers in that game as well.

Walker has been getting the job done with his glove, too. In the 8-7 win over Port Jefferson, the Royals had runners on first and second in bottom of eighth when Walker raced for a fly ball, laying out to make the catch in right-center field.

With the score tied at 7-7 in the bottom of the seventh of last Thursday’s game, Port Jefferson’s Shawn Griffin struck a two-out single to right field and his teammate, Neil Alvarez, tried to score on the play. Walker fielded the ball, relayed it to Poliwoda, playing first base, and Poliwoda then fired home to catcher Sean Moran, who blocked the plate well for the out, sending the game to extra innings.

Carver said the play was a game-saver. “That ball is hit with two out, I’m thinking, game over,” he said. “It had to be the perfect throw, and it was.”

Just to keep his players on their toes and from getting too full of themselves, Carver reminds them of these chilling numbers: 4-11. That was the team’s record last year.

At this point, it would take a lot to keep the First Settlers out of the playoffs.

Said Carver, “We would have to internally implode right now.”

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