Gene Rochler’s marriage came to an end Wednesday.
Well, one of his marriages did.
Married to baseball coaching — as well as his wife, Nancy — for 40 years, Rochler said his Mattituck High School team’s 11-1 loss to Center Moriches in the decisive second game of the Suffolk County Class B finals was his final game as a coach.
“I was 25 when I first coached and I was only a little bit older than the kids on the team, and now I’m the old man, so it’s gone by pretty quickly,” said Rochler, who plans to move to Florida where he can enjoy some sun and golf.
He will take with him some fine memories of his first and only season as Mattituck’s head coach. The Tuckers had a good run, one they could feel good about. Despite losing their first playoff game to Babylon in the county tournament, they battled back with wins over Southampton and then Babylon in a rematch to earn a place in the best-of-three finals.
Of course, it was at that stage when they ran into Center Moriches, the undefeated defending state champion. In Game 1 Tuesday, Center Moriches romped, 11-3, on its home field. Then, when the series moved to Mattituck Wednesday, it was pretty much more of the same.
It wasn’t a matter of Mattituck (17-8) not playing well, either. It was more a case of Center Moriches (22-0), well, playing like Center Moriches.
Brothers Jordan Falco (three RBIs) and David Falco (two RBIs) had two hits and a home run each for the Red Devils. Alec Maag went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs in the game, the last couple of innings of which were played in the rain.
“Of all of the baseball teams I’ve played in my whole life, they’re probably the best team I’ve faced on the diamond,” Mattituck senior catcher Ryan Mahon said. “They’re obviously a state-caliber team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they go win it another year. It’s very tough to deal with, their lineup. They’re just stacked. There’s no other way to say it. They just overpowered us.”
Center Moriches, which will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island final June 6 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, had seven players contribute to its 13-hit total.
“Yesterday the top of our lineup really picked us up, and today the top of the lineup struggled in the beginning and the bottom of the lineup picked us up,” Center Moriches coach Dennis Donovan said. “So, we’re just a well-rounded team, and they’re still hungry.”
David Falco socked a leadoff homer (his third of the year and second in two days) in the second inning. Then Center Moriches broke the game open with five-run rallies in the fourth and sixth innings. Meanwhile, Matt Alifano (7-0) and David Falco combined for a two-hitter.
Both Mattituck hits came in the fourth. After Emmet Ryan led off with a walk, Tyler C. Olsen squeezed a single under lunging third baseman Dakota Hotaling’s glove. One out later, Brady Mahon ripped a lined single over first baseman Robert Copozzi for Mattituck’s sole run.
In the top half of the inning, Center Moriches produced five hits, all two-out, run-scoring singles by Jordan Falco, Leyton Pulsipher, Dylan Bryant, Corey Stengel and Maag.
Five more runs followed in the sixth from a Maag RBI single, back-to-back RBI doubles by David Falco and Copozzi and Jordan Falco’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot.
Rochler called Center Moriches “if not the strongest, one of the strongest teams I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been coaching.”
Mattituck senior third baseman Bryce Grathwohl said the season has been a “pleasant surprise. We had a lot of unknown factors coming in, unknown variables. It was just surprising how well we played as a team together, you know, different guys picking each other up, and just us growing as a family.”
He added, “All the seniors, we have had a corps of kids playing together since we were like 12, maybe even before that, so we grew up playing with each other and it’s just heartbreaking to see it end.”
Rochler praised his players for their efforts throughout the season.
“Every game they hustled out to their positions,” he said. “They gave me good at-bats. They gave me great pitching efforts. It was a great experience for me … and my last year coaching, I was proud to have these guys. It was fantastic.”
Photo caption: Jordan Falco tips his batting helmet after slugging a two-run homer that made the score 11-1 for Center Moriches in the sixth inning. Also pictured are teammate Leyton Pulsipher and Mattituck catcher Ryan Mahon. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)