Jem pitched a gem.
The intense rivalry between the Mattituck and Southampton high school baseball teams has produced some memorable games over the years (including a wild 19-inning game last year that took two days to complete). Jem Sisco added an interesting chapter to that history Saturday when the Southampton pitcher threw a two-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts on his home field. The senior righthander with a dramatically high leg kick, had a no-hitter going through 4 1/3 innings before turning in his first complete game of the season, a 3-0 Suffolk County League VIII triumph.
“He was terrific today,” said Southampton coach Scott Johnson.
Asked if he was aware he had a no-hitter going, Sisco, who threw two no-hitters last season, answered, “I try not to think about it and psych myself out.”
Not only was Sisco’s curveball on the mark, but his four-seamers and two-seamers kept the Mattituck batters honest. He was economical, throwing 84 pitches.
“He’s real good,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said. “We knew he was going to be trouble and he lived up to it. He threw hard, threw strikes, nice off-speed stuff. He spotted the ball, and he fielded his position well, too.”
Sisco throws in the upper 80s, generating much of his power from an extremely high leg kick that brings his left knee about eye level. He turns his back on the hitter momentarily, hiding the ball well before delivering it.
“I just copied Nolan Ryan’s mechanics,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been doing since I was little … It’s the only way I know. He was the epitome of somebody who could throw gas.”
Understandably, Mattituck had its troubles against Sisco.
“You got to battle against him,” Mattituck catcher Ryan Mahon said. “He’s a unique pitcher. He’s got that big leg kick. It’s hard to hit.”
It sure was until Chris Nicholson broke up Sisco’s no-hit bid with a hard-hit single past second baseman Will Raffel one out into the fifth inning.
The only other hit off Sisco came when Mahon chopped a one-out, infield single near the third-base line in the seventh.
“I felt good today,” said Sisco, who walked one batter and hit another. “I felt strong, well-rested.”
Johnson said, “He is the best pitcher in this league, by far.”
As it turned out, the only run Southampton (8-6, 8-6) needed came in the first inning. Elijah Wingfield led off by doubling sharply and scoring one out later on a Sisco groundout.
But the Mariners gave their ace more breathing room in the third, courtesy of a two-run homer that Thomas Gabriele (3-for-4) slammed over the leftfield fence.
Southampton’s 12-hit attack also included 3-for-3 hitting by Sam Snyder.
Tyler C. Olsen had the misfortune to be Sisco’s counterpart. The Mattituck junior gave up seven hits over three innings, with five strikeouts and a walk. Jon Lisowy and Mahon combined for four innings of scoreless relief.
The two teams aren’t exactly fans of each other, although they seem to relish their spirited clashes.
“The games get really intense,” Mahon said. “They talk a lot. We talk a lot. It’s fun.”
Because Mattituck is a Class B team and Southampton is in Class A, they will not meet again this year. The teams split their regular-season series, two games apiece.
Defending league champion Mattituck (8-6, 8-6) needs two wins from its remaining six games (three-game series against Elwood/John Glenn and Babylon) to secure a playoff spot.
“We have a really big stretch coming up, and that will really define the season,” said Nicholson.
If it’s any consolation, the Tuckers don’t have to worry about ever seeing Sisco again.
Sisco’s final memory of playing against Mattituck is a fond one. Yes, it’s nice to win, but does beating Mattituck make it a little extra special?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Without a doubt.”
Photo caption: Tyler C. Olsen pitched the first three innings for Mattituck, allowing seven hits, three runs (two earned) and a walk, with five strikeouts. (Credit: Bob Liepa)