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Baseball: Southold-Port Jeff game suspended

Rain, rain, go away. Now they’ll have to play another day.

Two winless high school baseball teams, Southold and Port Jefferson, were hoping to pick up their first win Friday morning, but that meant having to get their game against each other in. So, with an ominous weather forecast, the game’s starting time was pushed up an hour to 9 a.m. in an effort to beat the weather. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.

Southold and Port Jefferson are still winless. Mother Nature remains undefeated.

Some snowflakes fell during pregame activities and then, almost as if on cue, rain began falling just as the Suffolk County League IX game began. It was the start of a steady rainfall that took its toll on the field at Scofield-Desiderio Park in Port Jefferson. After Southold’s Michael Daddona drew a leadoff walk in the top of the third inning, the umpires conferred, spoke with both coaches and suspended the game with the score tied, 5-5, in Port Jefferson’s home opener.

Section XI will determine the fate of the game, said Southold coach Greg Tulley.

“With what the radar looks like, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better … any time soon,” Port Jefferson coach Jesse Rosen said. “You got to do your best to level the playing field with the elements, whatever you can do to dress warmer and things along those lines, which we’re trying to do, but Mother Nature is certainly a force to be reckoned with.”

Port Jefferson pitcher Zach Mitchell didn’t look happy with the mound. His counterpart, Billy Burns, wasn’t, that’s for sure. The pitching mound was “about as muddy as it gets,” Burns said. “I was four inches in mud, slipping all over the place.”

If that wasn’t enough, the baseballs were drenched and the 38-degree temperature wasn’t particularly comfortable.

“It was rough because the cold got my hands real frozen and then I couldn’t get a grip with the water,” Burns said. “It was just really battling through that because the ball never was dry. That was the real problem.”

Baseball wasn’t meant to be played in weather like this.

Perhaps the rough weather contributed to some shoddy fielding by both sides.

Southold (0-2, 0-2) plated three unearned runs in the first thanks to a pair of errors. Jake Okula opened the game with a pop-up that fell untouched in the infield, a result of miscommunication. The next batter, Joe Hayes, supplied a sharp single. They both scored when an outfielder misplayed a fly ball hit by Burns. Burns provided the third run on a groundout by Dylan Newman.

Port Jefferson (0-3, 0-3) had only one hit, a double blasted by leadoff hitter Payton Ginas in the first. Ginas scored later that inning on a fielding error. It was the first of four errors Southold committed.

Southold stretched its lead to 5-1 in the second. Okula launched a two-bagger to the base of the centerfield fence and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Luke Hansen that centerfielder Hunter Ginas made a nice lunging catch on. Then Burns bounced a run-scoring single through the left side.

But Port Jefferson evened things with four runs — all unearned — in the second as Southold dropped two fly balls in the outfield.

That’s the sort of stuff that’s going to happen to a team as young as Southold is. Burns, Hansen and Hayes are the only returning players from last year’s county champion team that went 23-2. Everyone else is new to the varsity scene.

“The defense looked a little rocky, but we’ll get past it,” Hayes said. “It’s obviously their first year on varsity so they’re going to get better as the year goes on and they’re just going to improve every day and they’re going to get better. They’re going to stop making those mistakes. They just have to get more time in.”

Tulley said, “A lot of guys are in different positions for the first time so there are going to be some bumps in the road.”

It hasn’t helped that, because of inclement weather, this was the first time Southold was able to play outside in eight days.

Both sides are hoping things will be dryer and warmer the next time they meet.

Burns said, “I think I would rather come back on a dry day and finish this game off.”

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Photo caption: Southold’s Billy Burns said the pitching mound was “about as muddy as it gets. I was four inches in mud, slipping all over the place.”
(Credit: Bob Liepa)