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Baseball: It’s all about pitching at Grand Slam Challenge

Shoreham-Wading River pitcher Zach White 061416

It was one last high school baseball game for Long Island’s top seniors. One final chance to hit the diamond as a representative of their schools.

For Mattituck’s Joe Tardif and Shoreham-Wading River’s Zach White, it was a moment to cherish.

With this one final memory of their senior season came a message that was sent loud and clear: Good pitching trumps good hitting.

At least that seems to be the case with the Grand Slam Challenge. For example, in the 12-year history of the senior all-star game, a home run has never been hit, according to Newsday high school sports editor Gregg Sarra.

“That’s amazing,” said White.

So, could anyone really be surprised at what transpired on Tuesday night at Farmingdale State College when Suffolk County edged Nassau County, 1-0?

Not really.

Perhaps it was fitting that a pitcher, Anthony Kay of Ward Melville, the 31st pick in the MLB Draft by the New York Mets, threw out the first pitch. The pitching was superb. Both teams sent out one tough pitcher after another.

“A fresh pitcher every inning,” White said. “There’s somebody coming in, throwing hard, throwing good, and the batter’s got to adjust.”

White was among those fine pitchers. The All-County righthander, who will go on to play for New York Tech, had to wait his turn, however. He didn’t get into the game until the eighth inning.

“I was sitting around for a while,” he said. “I was a little anxious. I didn’t want to be the first one to let up a run, but I went out there and I did just did what I usually try to do, just go out there, throw strikes and play my game.”

White did well, retiring the side in order on a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts. With his fastball hitting 85 miles per hour, he threw 15 pitches, eight for strikes, in a brief but clean outing.

Nine Suffolk pitchers played a part in the four-hit shutout.

Tardif was involved in the game’s first pitch, batting leadoff. He had the distinction of facing the 6-foot-10 Kyle Young (St. Dominic), who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 22nd round. Tardif fouled off the first pitch, took the second for a strike, and then looked at three balls before grounding an infield single that third baseman Zach Fritz (East Meadow) stopped but had no play on.

The speedy Tardif, who played six innings in centerfield, making one catch, later bounced a two-out hit into leftfield, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

Both Tardif and White are coming off impressive seasons for playoff teams.

Tardif hit .440 and stole 31 bases for Mattituck. With 115 steals in four years, he is the fourth-leading steals leader in New York State, according to Tuckers coach Steve DeCaro. As a pitcher this past season, Tardif went 6-0 (bringing his career record to 18-1), with a 1.34 earned run average. For the second year in a row he was named the League VIII MVP, and he won a Gold Glove Award for the second straight year.

White had a 7-2 record for Shoreham with a 0.87 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. Opposing teams batted .158 against him.

Tardif, who will join former Mattituck teammate Marcos Perivolaris at SUNY/Cortland, was also impressed with the pitching.

“The pitching was good,” he said. “The pitchers threw strikes. They knew how to pitch. They knew what pitches to throw and at what time.”

Appropriately enough, a hit did not factor in the game’s only run. After consecutive walks in the sixth inning, James Sarno (Mount Sinai) stole third base and was brought home on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Rooney (Bayport-Blue Point). Rooney also made a splendid defensive play at second base in the fifth, flying to his left to knock down a liner hit by Sean Hogan (Holy Trinity) before throwing him out.

Rooney was rewarded with the game MVP award.

White seemed to enjoy himself.

“This is the coolest event I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I was really excited and honored to be in it. It was just a great time.”

Especially for pitchers.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River pitcher Zach White joined with eight other Suffolk County pitchers in a four-hit shutout. (Credit: Bill Landon)