A pitcher’s duel. When high school baseball teams send two top pitchers like this to the mound, it’s bound to happen.
Brendan Kent loves them.
For one thing, they help keep a pitcher’s focus sharp. “You make one mistake and anything can happen,” said Kent, Mattituck’s senior righthander.
Mattituck had one more hit than Center Moriches in Monday’s game, and that made all the difference.
When defending Suffolk County Class B champion Center Moriches plays Mattituck, winner of three straight league titles, it’s bound to be a good game. This one did not disappoint.
Sam Dickerson’s sixth-inning double snapped a tie and brought Mattituck its sixth straight win, a 2-1 road victory over rival Center Moriches in the opener of a three-game League VIII series.
Both starters, Kent (2-1) and Center Moriches junior Liam Pulsipher (1-2), kept both sides on their toes in the six innings they each worked.
After allowing a run and two of the three hits he surrendered in the first inning, Kent buckled down. He finished with six strikeouts against four walks over the course of his 98-pitch outing.
“He’s performing like Mattituck number one pitchers are supposed to perform,” said Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro.
His counterpart, Pulsipher, was comparable, with six strikeouts, allowing four hits and a walk. The lefthander also hit Jon Lisowy with a pitch.
Pulsipher, whose father Bill was a major league pitcher, has committed to play for Stony Brook University.
“He gave us a chance and that’s what we ask of him,” Center Moriches coach Dennis Donovan said. “He went out there and threw strikes. He worked ahead [in the count] a lot. He threw ground balls when we needed it and they got one more hit than us.”
That hit came in the sixth. Ryan McCaffrey led off by clocking a stand-up double beyond the leftfielder’s outstretched arm, the ball landing about 340 feet from home plate.
One out later, it was Dickerson’s turn in the batter’s box. He had struck out twice in his previous two at-bats.
“I was scared,” he said. “I was shaking right at the batter’s box, but I was just looking for a pitch I can hit hard.”
He found it — a two-strike inside fastball that he banged down the leftfield line, bringing McCaffrey home.
With a runner on second base, Center Moriches rightfielder Corey Stengel made a great catch, laying out to grab a fly by Ryan Mahon for the third out of the inning.
Mattituck was fortunate to exit the first inning trailing only 1-0. An infield single by David Francini, a throwing error by Kent and a single bounced through the middle by Matt Alifano loaded the bases for Brad Sakallarides. He grounded out to bring in a run. A walk to Alec Maag loaded the bases again, but Kent averted further damage by getting David Falco to ground into a 6-4-3 double play on two-seam fastball.
“I thought [Kent] showed an incredible amount of courage today,” DeCaro said. “He had a horrible first inning, threw over 30 pitches, with no help from his teammates, and then he came back and was just the Brendan Kent we expect.”
Mattituck didn’t wait long to even terms, though. The following inning, Bryce Grathwohl singled, Ryan Mahon walked and James McDonald reached base on an error before Kevin Mahon delivered a sacrifice fly.
Tyler Williams pitched a perfect seventh for the save.
The game was over in a swift 1 hour, 43 minutes.
“The fourth, fifth, sixth were definitely my best innings,” Kent said. “I definitely hit my stride. When you trust your teammates behind you, the strikes come.”
Photo caption: Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro talking to his players before Monday’s game in Center Moriches. (Credit: Bob Liepa)