PANTHERS 3, TUCKERS 2
Something strange and unusual happened to the Mattituck High School baseball team on Tuesday. It lost.
After winning their first 15 games this season, the Tuckers suffered their first loss in almost a year, 3-2, to Babylon. The pursuit of perfection is over, but a league championship is close at hand. Should the Tuckers defeat Bishop McGann-Mercy on Wednesday, they will clinch at least a share of the Suffolk County League VIII title. It would be their fifth league championship in 18 years. They have four games remaining in the regular season.
The defending league champion Tuckers could have clinched the title outright on Tuesday, if not for a stubborn Babylon team that put the sole blemish on Mattituck’s sparkling record.
Babylon (12-4, 12-4), trailing by 1-0, came back by scoring all three of its runs in the top of the seventh inning. Babylon’s Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters led things off that inning and came up big for the Panthers.
Hunter Chicharre battled back from 1-2 count to earn a walk on a 3-2 pitch. He stole second base before Anthony Vano walked on a wild pitch, leaving both runners in scoring position. Shaun Kaminski then put down a well-executed bunt, scoring Chicharre, who was running on the pitch, with the tying run. Later, Kenneth Gordon delivered a sacrifice fly and Sean Flynn brought in the third run on a groundout.
The Tuckers started the bottom half of the inning off promisingly with their first two batters reaching base, Christian Figurniak on a sharp single and Mike Onufrak being hit by a pitch. After they were both sacrificed over a base, Figurniak was thrown out trying to score on a passed ball, with catcher Brandon Bierle tossing the ball to the pitcher, Zack Carmody, covering home plate.
That only made what happened next bittersweet for the Tuckers. Joe Tardif lined a single to center field that scored one run and might have brought in two had another runner been on base. Tardif advanced to second on a steal, but Carmody (5-1) struck out Marcos Perivolaris on a full count to end it.
The Tuckers had taken a 1-0 lead on Perivolaris’ sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Babylon had a base-running adventure of its own go wrong for it in the sixth. Cole Middleton walked and stole second before Flynn hit a grounder to the shortstop, Perivolaris. Perivolaris threw to third baseman Will Gildersleeve, who tracked Flynn down for the out. Carmody then rapped a hit-and-run single, putting two runners on base. But Tardif (4-1) escaped the jam unscathed with a strikeout and a groundout.
It was a game of missed opportunities. With runners in scoring position, Babylon hit 2 for 8 and Mattituck went 1 for 6.
The Tuckers squandered an opportunity in the third after loading the bases on successive two-out walks by Tardif, Perivolaris and Chris Dwyer. But Carmody induced a groundout to keep the Tuckers off the scoreboard.
Carmody, a right-hander in his fifth varsity season, turned in quite an outing, holding Mattituck, an offensive juggernaut, to five hits. He walked four and struck out three in his complete-game effort.
The setting was in place for a Mattituck title-clinching victory. The weather was beautiful, with the temperature in the 80s and Mattituck’s sun-splashed field looked as green as ever. But second-place Babylon played the spoiler, keeping its slim title chances alive by putting a mark in Mattituck’s loss column.
Mattituck’s previous loss also came to Panthers, the Rye Neck Panthers in a Class B Southeast Region final last June.
Three of Mattituck’s wins this season have been by one run, and one of them was against Babylon.