It can be truly said that the Southold High School baseball team has three No. 1 pitchers on its starting staff. That being the case, Dylan Clausen must be considered No. 1A.
Clausen has been starting the opening games of series this season, and that included Game 1 of the Suffolk County Class C finals on Monday. For the first few innings, Clausen said, he didn’t feel entirely comfortable on the mound. It took the senior lefthander those early innings to settle in.
“The first few innings he just didn’t look like he had it,” said catcher Shane Zimmer.
A three-run burst in the third inning that gave Southold a 4-0 lead helped Clausen get in a groove, though.
“After we tacked on those runs, he had his stuff,” Zimmer said. “He was spotting it well. Perfect.”
When it was over, Clausen had a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts, Southold was a 7-0 winner over Pierson/Bridgehampton and one win away from a third straight county championship. Game 2 will be Tuesday in Sag Harbor.
Clausen (8-0), a senior who will play for SUNY/Maritime College, had started the day with a microscopic 0.43 ERA. That ERA only got lower with the shutout.
“It’s been status quo,” Southold coach Mike Carver answered when asked what he thought of Clausen’s performance. “It’s what we expect from our pitchers.”
It was an all-around impressive showing by Southold (21-0), the only undefeated team in Suffolk and the top-ranked Class C team in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association. The offense generated 10 hits, including two each by Luke Hansen, Zimmer, Doug Fiedler and Adam Baldwin. The defense was flawless and Clausen was, well, he was Clausen, even if his fastball lacked some of the zip it normally has.
“The velocity wasn’t really there,” he admitted, saying it was perhaps a bit of fatigue. “Everyone basically noticed. I usually it hum it in a little quicker.”
One out into the game, Pierson’s James Sherry grounded a double into leftfield. He reached third base on a groundout before Clausen came away unscathed with his first strikeout.
The only other hits Pierson (16-5) managed were Tom Brooks’ bad-hop single over third baseman Baldwin’s left shoulder in the third and Matt Burke’s double over diving centerfielder Fiedler in the fourth. The only other Pierson batter to reach base was Sean Sloane on a second-inning walk.
During one stretch from the fourth to sixth innings, Clausen fanned five of six batters.
“He’s just got such good composure, spots his fastball well,” Zimmer said. “His curveball is just ridiculous. He’s got everything working right now.”
Southold’s other starting pitchers, Hansen (7-0) and Pat McFarland (4-0), are unbeaten, too. “It’s a nice feeling as a coach to know you have that kind of ammo,” said Carver.
Perhaps the fielding play of the day came in the second. With a runner on first, Pierson’s Cooper Schiavoni attempted a sacrifice bunt. Clausen fielded the ball, flipped it to Hansen at first base for the first out. Hansen then, in a heads-up play, fired to McFarland covering second to complete a 1-3-6 double play.
“The biggest difference between us now and at the beginning of the season is our defense,” Carver said. “We’re making the plays.”
Southold took a 1-0 lead in the first. After Zimmer’s two-out double, a fly ball hit by Clausen was dropped, allowing the run to score.
Four singles, including RBI singles by Fiedler and Baldwin, powered a three-run rally in the third. Zimmer scored a run that inning on a balk called on Pierson pitcher Sam Warne.
Southold plated a run in each of the next three innings to pad its lead. Zimmer and Billy Burns produced sacrifice flies in the fourth and fifth, and McFarland singled in a run in the sixth.
“We did everything,” Zimmer said. “We hit the ball. We pitched. We made the plays in the field. We’re doing what we need to do.”
Clausen said his early-game uneasiness may have had to do with the delayed start to the game. The game was scheduled for 4 p.m., but the first pitch wasn’t thrown until 37 minutes later.
“I warmed up a little too early than usual,” Clausen said. “Now I’m going to try to warm up as close to game time as possible so I’m ready to go right into the game.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Game 2 will be played in Southold, as originally posted by www.sectionxi.org. The site has been moved to Sag Harbor.