For the Mattituck Tuckers, it was actually two strikes and they were out — as in out of the Suffolk County baseball playoffs.
Needing a win to remain alive in the Class B competition, the Tuckers stumbled Thursday for the second time in as many days, losing to Babylon, 10-1.
On Wednesday, No. 3 Mattituck dropped a 7-4 decision at top-seeded Center Moriches when a game suspended due to rain Tuesday resumed. That did not give the Tuckers much wiggle room entering the game at Joe Dellucca Field in Babylon.
Instead, the second-seeded Panthers (17-5) advanced to Friday’s final at Center Moriches and Mattituck (12-11) had a long bus ride home.
“It’s bittersweet,” said senior pitcher Sam Dickerson, who played in his final varsity game. “I’ve been playing with these guys since I’ve been very young. It’s tough. It’s really tough.”
“They outplayed us today,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said.
Babylon senior righthander Frank Vano (6-0) turned out to be double jeopardy for the Tuckers.
On the mound, he went the distance, striking out eight, walking one and hitting one batter. He allowed five hits and only one — a single to center by Tyler F. Olsen in the third inning — that left the infield. At the plate, Vano slammed a two-run home run and had four RBIs.
“He was very consistent on what he was doing,” said Jason Scalia, who scored the Tuckers’ lone run and was on base twice. “We were out of it. We couldn’t connect on anything well. Just out of our place. There was nothing we could do about it.”
Babylon coach Victor Manzella held out Vano from Mattituck’s 3-1 playoff-opening win last Friday.
“We played dumb the first game,” he said. “It’s a little tricky. We did a little shifting to save Frankie for this game, knowing that he was going to comeback. It worked out, Thank God.”
He said last year his team won the first game of the playoffs before losing the next two.
“I didn’t want to set myself up with no pitching again,” he said.
In contrast, Dickerson, who was so effective that victory, struggled. He lasted 2 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, walking three and hitting two.
“I think he was uncomfortable on the mound, not to make any excuses,” DeCaro said. “He never really felt comfortable, in his landing spot. I think that affected everything.”
Added Dickerson, who reached base twice and had one of the Tuckers’ five hits: “I just didn’t have my stuff today. I don’t know what it was. Just not my day, I guess.”
The Tuckers scored their only run in the top of the first. Scalia reached on an error, stole second and scored on a double steal as Dickerson was thrown out in a run down with the former scoring first before his teammate was tagged out.
In the bottom of the inning, Tufens smacked the first pitch for a double to center, scoring on a force out. Junior Gino Vano, Frank’s younger brother, added a sacrifice fly that produced the go-ahead run.
The Panthers extended their lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the third. Carmody’s single drove in Babylon’s third run before Frank Vano hit a blooper to right between three Mattituck players that went off the glove of a diving Jon Lisowy in short right field that brought in another two with the bases loaded.
Frank Vano continued to help himself with a two-run homer to left off reliever Chris Nicholson in the fifth inning and Carmody clubbed a three-run blast to the same area off Lisowy in the sixth.
It was Vano’s first homer of his career at any level.
“I played 12 years of baseball, never in Little League, junior high, JV, nothing, never hit a home run,” he said.
The Tuckers had their opportunities. They left the bases loaded in the third and had potential rallies squelched by double plays in the sixth and seventh.
DeCaro has been on both sides of the coin. He has experienced the exhilaration of winning a state championship — in 2015 — and has endured the disappointment of playoff elimination.
“As long as our guys tried their best, how much more can I ask?” he said. “As long as we’re trying hard, sometimes the other team’s better.”
Photo caption: Right fielder Jon Lisowy races in to attempt a catch. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)