SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS C FINAL | FIRST SETTLERS 8, TIGERS 5
It wasn’t anything the Southold First Settlers had not experienced before. They had trailed in games and come back a number of times.
They did so again on Saturday, the only difference being this time it earned them a coveted trip to Binghamton for a New York State Class C baseball semifinal.
After falling behind by 3-0 to Tuckahoe in the first inning of the Southeast Region final, the First Settlers turned the tables and won, 8-5, at Mamaroneck High School. After the game-ending groundout, Southold players rushed the field. Caps and gloves were tossed in the air. The First Settlers had become regional champions for what their coach, Mike Carver, believes to be the first time ever.
Southold, ranked second in its class in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association poll, will play Hoosic Valley of Section II in a state semifinal Saturday morning at Binghamton University. The state final will be played later that day.
Playing in their first regional final since 2003, the First Settlers (21-2), who had twice trailed by three runs early on, found themselves leading by four runs, 8-4, in the sixth inning. Dylan Clausen clubbed a run-scoring triple, Greg Gehring singled in a run and Luke Hansen scored on a fielding error.
Errors were a big part of Tuckahoe’s undoing. The Tigers committed seven of them while the First Settlers played impeccable defense, a trademark of theirs this season.
Things had started off well enough for Tuckahoe (19-5). In the first inning, Austin Pope, Brett Oliverio and Michael Liscio singled in runs for a 3-0 lead.
After Southold’s rocky first inning, Carver had considered replacing his starting pitcher, Alex Poliwoda, who has been dealing with a sprained left ankle, Pat McFarland warmed up in the bullpen in the second inning, but wasn’t called upon to pitch.
Things got better for the Southolders, starting with Poliwoda’s third home run of the season, a solo shot in the second that gave the First Settlers something to build on.
Tuckahoe restored its three-run lead later in the inning on Robert Kiernan’s run-scoring single.
But Southold worked its way back into the game, pulling to within a run in the third on a bases-loaded walk by Liam Walker and a booted ground ball that allowed Clausen to score.
The First Settlers registered two more runs in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. A bases-loaded walk by Shayne Johnson and three Tuckahoe errors — one of which allowed Clausen to score — put Southold in front, 5-4. One could sense the pendulum swinging Southold’s way.
Meanwhile, Carver’s decision to stick with his No. 1 pitcher, Poliwoda, proved to be the right one. Poliwoda (10-0) went the distance, throwing 122 pitches, 71 for strikes. The senior right-hander allowed only one run over the final five innings when Nanno Santorelli (3 for 3, three doubles, one walk) scored for the third time after Chris Corrado got caught in a rundown between first and second in the sixth.
Poliwoda gave up eight hits, walked four (one intentionally), struck out five and hit batters three times.
The game’s starting time was pushed back two hours while workers kept busy making sure an infield that had been soaked by rain was playable.