Baseball: After 19-inning marathon, Tuckers are co-champs

It meant extending their regular season by two days and surviving an epic 19-inning game that took two days to complete, but the Mattituck Tuckers found the extra effort worthwhile.

The Suffolk County League VIII baseball game between Mattituck and host Southampton that started Wednesday was finally brought to an end Friday thanks in good part to Bryce Grathwohl. The sophomore pitched all six innings that were played Friday and came through with his first career home run in the 19th inning, bringing Mattituck a 5-4 triumph and a share of the league championship, half of which belongs to Southampton. Both teams finished the regular season 15-5 overall and in the league.

The teams were tied, 4-4, through 13 innings Wednesday before the game was suspended because of darkness. On Thursday Southampton went to Babylon and secured a 4-1 win for the Mariners’ first league title since 2013. Southampton tried to win the title outright on Friday, only to see Mattituck grab a piece of it for itself. It is Mattituck’s fourth straight league crown.

“We came in hungry to win,” Mattituck’s Ryan McCaffrey said. “Without a doubt, we wanted to win this game more than any other game this year, and we did that.”

And in a fashion and a game the Tuckers will not soon forget.

It was a classic. The length of the tense game was 4 hours, 40 minutes. The teams combined for 17 hits (10 by Mattituck) and 28 stranded runners (16 by Mattituck). Five players made nine plate appearances. Mattituck used four pitchers (Brendan Kent, Tyler Williams, McCaffrey and Grathwohl) and Southampton used three (Jem Sisco, Aaron Krzyzwski and Thomas Gabriele). The total number of pitches thrown: 567 (302 by Southampton).

Asked if he had ever been involved in a game like this before, McCaffrey answered: “No, nothing even close. It was crazy.”

Even in defeat, Southampton coach Scott Johnson had to marvel about what he had seen. “It was incredible baseball,” he said. “It wasn’t just one team playing well. Both teams played terrific baseball. The pitchers were outstanding, and it boils down to one pitch.”

That pitch was a high curveball on an 0-1 count that Gabriele, a sophomore himself, threw to Grathwohl in the 19th. Grathwohl made no mistake, nailing a high drive over leftfield for the go-ahead homer.

“He just gave me something good to hit and I just didn’t look back,” said Grathwohl (3-for-8), the only player in the game with three hits.

Grathwohl sprinted around the bases. “I couldn’t wait to get home,” he said.

Johnson said he calls every pitch from the dugout. “I take blame for the home run, not him,” the coach said. “I called that pitch. … So, I take it personally. I’ll think about it all night, for sure.”

Grathwohl’s work on the mound was exquisite. Over the course of his six scoreless innings, the righthander allowed three hits, with eight strikeouts. He didn’t issue a walk.

Grathwohl (5-1) experienced a scare in the 16th when Jayden Pepitone drove a deep ball to leftfield. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double after some questioning of whether it was a home run. Southampton went on to put two runners in scoring position, but Grathwohl happily hopped off the mound after recording a huge inning-ending strikeout of Thomas Fullam.

“Bryce was electric out there,” McCaffrey said. “This was one of those times when you knew he was going to get this kid out. You knew he was going to throw a first-pitch strike. You just knew he was going to have a great day.”

In the 19th, Grathwohl fanned the first two batters and then got Chad Pike to fly out to rightfielder Jon Lisowy for the final out, giving Mattituck its third win in four games against Southampton this season.

“I’ll never forget this one,” said McCaffrey.

The 13 innings that were played Wednesday stood out on their own.

“It’s definitely one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in my life,” Mattituck shortstop Matt Heffernan said after the game was suspended.

James McDonald, who had gone 0-for-5 in his first five at-bats, may have thought he won the game for Mattituck when he led off the 13th by belting an opposite-field home run. His first homer of the season snapped a 3-3 tie.

In the bottom half of the inning, Sisco slammed a double and scored the tying run one out later on Gabriele’s single.

McCaffrey and Southampton’s Devon O’Brien both clocked two-run homers.

The Tuckers held a 2-0 lead two batters into the game thanks to McCaffrey, who drove a low pitch over the centerfield fence for his second homer of the season.

Mattituck held Southampton to four hits through 13 innings. One of Southampton’s hits was O’Brien’s two-out blast, which went high and far over rightfield, evening the score at 3-3.

Some sparkling defense on both sides added to the game’s luster. Heffernan made what might have been the play of the day in the 10th. With a runner on base, he raced back into centerfield to make an amazing grab of a fly ball hit by O’Brien for the third out.

“When you have confidence in your pitcher and your teammates behind you, it’s pretty easy to have confidence in yourself to make the play,” he said.

In the top of the inning, Southampton’s shortstop, Pike, saved a run. Mattituck had the bases loaded with two outs when Sam Dickerson smacked a hard grounder. Pike not only made the stop, but also the throw to first.

“It’s just a marathon,” said McDonald.

Following the 12th inning, with the setting sun low in the sky, the home-plate umpire indicated he was going to stop the game. However, after conferring with both sides, he consented to continuing. The teams played another inning before the game was suspended.

“Wasn’t that an awesome game, though?” DeCaro asked. “The greatest game in the world.”

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Photo caption: Bryce Grathwohl is mobbed by teammates after his 19th-inning home run gave Mattituck a 5-4 lead over Southampton. (Credit: Garret Meade)

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