Talk about low-keying it.
When the Mattituck High School baseball team completed a suspended game Monday, defeating Pierson/Bridgehampton, 16-6, it assured the Tuckers of at least a share of the Suffolk County League VIII championship. Then, on Tuesday, the final day of the regular season, Mattituck beat Greenport, 12-1, to take the league title outright.
It is Mattituck’s third straight league crown and the ninth in the team’s 96-year history. Pretty big stuff.
Or is it?
Judging by the Tuckers’ reaction — or lack of one — following Tuesday’s game at Robbie Costantini Field in Greenport, one got the sense that it was just another day at the ballpark. Nothing more.
Wait a minute. Wasn’t a league title Mission No. 1 for the defending New York State Class B champions?
“No,” coach Steve DeCaro said. “I would say it’s nice to win the league championship, but for us, more importantly, it’s being the No. 1 seed in [Suffolk Class] B. It certainly wasn’t the goal, but it’s not bad to have.”
While DeCaro was being interviewed, his players looked, well, almost bored, as they waited to board their bus for the ride back to Mattituck.
“This is the biggest reaction we got right now, the huge celebration that is going on right now, the champagne,” DeCaro deadpanned as he looked at the players. “But everybody knows that this is just one step on the way toward something bigger, and even the county championship is one step on the way toward something bigger. We have such high goals at Mattituck and Mattituck baseball, that it’s almost sad that we can’t celebrate something like this. It’s just not that important.”
By winning its last seven games, Mattituck (17-2, 15-2) got its wish, securing the top seed in the double-elimination county tournament. It will host No. 4 Center Moriches (10-8, 10-8) on Thursday. Center Moriches is responsible for one of the two losses on Mattituck’s record, although the Tuckers took two other games from the Red Devils.
“I think that we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because they beat us in the regular season,” said Mattituck designated hitter James McDonald.
In its final tuneup for the playoffs, Mattituck battered Greenport (3-17, 3-17) for 10 hits, including three by Matt Heffernan. McDonald, a junior, belted his first career home run as part of his five runs batted in and nearly followed that with another homer before settling for a triple. Brendan Kent, Bryce Grathwohl and Tyler Williams handled the pitching, limiting Greenport to four hits. The Porters were strikeout victims 13 times.
“We’re playing good,” McDonald said. “We’re hitting good. We’re pitching good. We have our starters going deep into most games and we’re all hitting one through nine.”
Greenport’s five seniors — Sean Cary, Ryan Costello, Tyler Kruszeski, Max Mastrangelo and Bayron Rivas — were presented with flowers and recognized with family members in a pregame ceremony involving coach Mike Sage and athletic director Paula Nickerson.
Once the game began, Mattituck immediately got down to business with a four-run first inning, three of those runs coming when McDonald launched a 1-and-2 fastball over the left-center-field fence.
The lead was extended to 6-0 in the second, thanks in part to an RBI double by Heffernan.
McDonald was also responsible for three more runs in the fourth. With two runners on, courtesy of walks, McDonald slammed an opposite-field triple and then charged home himself on the play when the ball got away for an error.
Greenport, which was held to one hit through the first four innings, spoiled the shutout bid in the fifth. Tashon Lawrence reached base on an infield single loaded with backspin. He later scored on an errant pickoff attempt.
Mattituck responded with two runs in the sixth from a triple by Sam Dickerson and a Ryan Mahon double before an RBI single by Dickerson in the seventh.
“I think we’re in the right spot right now,” DeCaro said. “We’re being disciplined at the plate. Defense is coming together. The pitching is still there, so I think we’re ready.”
As for that league title thing, it’s no big deal.
Photo caption: Coach Steve DeCaro and his Mattituck team have won their third straight league title, but they aren’t getting too excited about it. (Credit: Bob Liepa)