Some losses linger longer than others.
The Southold High School baseball team has had a year to cringe over the taste of defeat it was left with following its 3-0 loss to East Rockaway last spring in a Southeast Region Class C semifinal.
On Thursday the First Settlers will have a chance to do something about it. For the second year in a row the two teams will meet in a regional semifinal. Looking to avenge last year’s season-ending loss is motivation enough for Southold (22-1).
What affect has that loss had on the Southold players?
“It makes them hungry, and we all know that was the game we could have won if we showed up with our bats,” Southold coach Mike Carver said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough runs and we made two mistakes. Hopefully, a year later, we show up.”
A good deal has changed since last year. For one thing, East Rockaway no longer has pitcher Ryan Kelly, who pitched a one-hit shutout, handing Southold its only loss to a Class C team last year. Meanwhile, most of the current Southold players are veterans from the 2015 team that reached the state semifinals.
Although Carver declined to reveal his starting pitcher for Thursday’s game against the Rocks (9-10) at SUNY/Old Westbury, it seems like he can’t go wrong. He can choose from among senior lefthander Dylan Clausen (9-0), junior lefthander Luke Hansen (7-1) and senior righthander Pat McFarland (4-0).
“I firmly believe our starting pitching will keep us in games,” Carver said. “It’s a matter of scoring runs.”
“I have all my starting pitchers back from last year and they don’t,” he continued. “So, when you start looking at matchups, we have to feel good about ourselves.”
A big part of Southold’s undoing in last year’s regional semifinal was its inability to produce in the clutch. The First Settlers hit 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven runners.
That sort of trouble doesn’t seem likely this time around, given the way Southold has hit. The team has outscored opponents, 236-25, with 14 wins coming on shutouts.
Southold, the top-ranked Class C team in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association rankings, has a potent offense. The first six batters in the order have been productive in the team’s three playoff games in the Suffolk County finals against Pierson/Bridgehampton: McFarland (5-for-10, four runs, four RBIs), Hansen (2-for-9, four runs), Shane Zimmer (6-for-10, three runs, six RBIs), Clausen (4-for-10, one run, two RBIs), Doug Fiedler (3-for-9, three runs, two RBIs) and Billy Burns (2-for-8, three runs, home run, two RBIs).
But Carver isn’t putting too much stock into team records and statistics at this stage.
“As I always say, that doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It comes down to who’s going to show up on Thursday. Hopefully it’s the 22 and 1 team that we are.”
In the meantime, Carver said he is counting down the hours to Thursday’s game.
“We just want to play,” he said. “It’s time to play.”
Photo caption: Pat McFarland is hitting 5-for-10 with four RBIs and four runs scored in three playoff games this spring. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)