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Baseball: Southold goes back-to-back with county titles

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The sneak attack was thwarted by the alert Mike Carver. Before his players could dump a bucket of water over him, the Southold High School baseball coach averted a soaking. In the end, Dylan Clausen was left holding the bucket with no one to throw it over.

It was one of the few things the First Settlers failed to accomplish during this memorable season.

Last year Southold achieved a team first by reaching the New York State semifinals. On Saturday it pulled off another first, winning back-to-back Suffolk County Class C championships for the first time in program history, according to Carver, who believes it is the team’s fourth county title.

“It’s definitely something special,” pitcher Pat McFarland said after Southold beat Pierson/Bridgehampton, 12-5, to sweep the county finals in two games.

After second baseman Joe Hayes fielded a ground ball and threw it into first baseman Luke Hansen’s glove for the game-ending out, gloves were flung in the air as the First Settlers dashed to meet McFarland for a dogpile on the pitcher’s mound at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

How does it compare to last year’s county title?

“It’s just as great,” shortstop Noah Mina said. “I love these guys, and to win another county championship is awesome.”

Awesome would be the word to describe Southold’s season to this point. The First Settlers (18-4) won their first 15 games of the season. They are undefeated against Class C competition, their only losses coming to Class B teams. Southold is ranked ninth in the state in the most recent New York State Sportswriters Association rankings.

Next up for Southold will be the Long Island final against the Nassau County champion on June 2 at the Dowling Sports Complex.

Despite the graduation of several players, not much has changed for Southold since the magical season of 2015. The First Settlers are still quite good, with a solid lineup and a winning formula of clean fielding and good pitching.

“We lost some guys, but we’re still a family,” Mina said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Neither has the team’s determination.

“They fight,” Carver said. “They’re scrappy.”

That was seen Saturday. After storming out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, Southold saw Pierson (11-11) slice that lead to 5-4 by the second. But Southold scored the next seven runs to pull away, including another five-run rally in the fifth.

The strong start in the first helped. McFarland set the tone in the game’s first at-bat, clocking a standup double before later scoring on a sacrifice fly by Greg Gehring. With the bases loaded, Hansen drove a two-run single down the left-field line and a third run scored on the play because of an errant throw. Shane Zimmer bounced a single through the middle to plate the fifth run.

Hansen drove in three runs on the day. Doug Fielder knocked in two runs and Gehring brought in two more without the benefit of a hit.

Southold, holding a 7-4 lead, effectively put the game away with its five-run fifth. The only hit during that spurt came when Fiedler chopped a high-bouncer over the head of first baseman Tyler LaBorne. It was good for two runs. The rest of that inning saw two walks, two hit batsmen, a fielding error and a run scoring on a wild pitch.

“We wanted to win this game, so we fought, we fought, we fought, and we got a good win out of it,” said Clausen.

McFarland (7-0), the League VIII pitcher of the year, went the distance, giving up only two earned runs to go with nine hits. He had seven strikeouts against one walk.

Southold is only two wins away from returning to the state semifinals in Binghamton. The First Settlers see it as a real possibility.

“Making it last year just makes us want it 10 times more this year,” said Mina.

It was too cold for a Gatorade bath for Carver under Saturday’s overcast sky.

“I think it would have been hilarious, but we might have gotten in a little trouble,” McFarland said. Then, after giving the matter more thought, he said, “I think it might have been worth it.”

Notes: Southold took Game 1 of the finals, 9-1, on its home field Thursday. Greg Gehring drove in three runs and Pat McFarland went 2 for 3 with a run batted in. Dylan Clausen (5-2) pitched six scoreless innings, with nine strikeouts. He gave up three hits and one walk.

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Photo caption: Southold players celebrate their second straight Suffolk County Class C championship, the first back-to-back county crowns in team history, according to coach Mike Carver. (Credit: Garret Meade)