As far as two-hitters go, it wasn’t as smooth as Lilly Fogarty would have liked, but a two-hitter is still a two-hitter.
And this two-hitter not only brought the Mattituck High School freshman pitcher her first playoff win, but it also brought the Tuckers their first playoff win in a long time. Coach Kim Gerstung couldn’t say exactly how long it had been, only that it had been a while.
Playing on its home field for the final time this season, third-seeded Mattituck held off No. 4 Hampton Bays, 6-4, in a Suffolk County Class B elimination game Friday. With that, the Tuckers advance to play at No. 2 Babylon Tuesday in the double-elimination tournament. The loser of that game will be ousted. Mattituck lost to No. 2 Center Moriches in its playoff opener.
Fogarty, whose 13-6 record mirrors that of her team, started off impressively, striking out the first three batters. But this outing had complications waiting for her.
After retiring two of the first three batters in the fourth inning, Fogarty hit a stumbling block. The righthander struggled with her control, walking four batters that inning as Hampton Bays (7-11) scored three times without the benefit of a hit. Suddenly Mattituck’s 6-0 lead shrank to 6-3.
“Her fourth and fifth innings are always her nemesis innings,” Gerstung said. “Those are the ones that she always struggles with.”
Still, Fogarty had a no-hitter going. Hampton Bays didn’t pick up its first hit until Emily Peyton, the opposing pitcher, put down a bunt single to lead off the fifth.
“It’s just in the middle [of the game] and I guess I’m getting tired and forgetting my mechanics and I just know I have to keep pushing through and eventually we’ll get out of it,” said Fogarty.
They did, but not without some uneasy moments. Hampton Bays left two runners on base in each of the last two innings.
Perhaps the biggest threat came in the sixth. After a walk and a steal by Dulse Moranchel, she scored on Pam Grajalas’ infield single. Peyton then reached base on an error and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Then shortstop Lexi Burns made what might have been the biggest play of the game, grabbing a screaming liner struck by Lily Candelaria for the third out.
“That was a great play,” said Gerstung.
In the seventh, Tara Brochu was hit by a pitch and Rebecca Heaney drew a one-out walk. But Fogarty induced two groundouts to end the game.
“A little nerve-racking, but you got to have faith in your fielders and faith in your pitcher, which we always have, no matter what,” said Mattituck catcher Ashley Perkins.
Fogarty finished with eight walks (three by Moranchel) and seven strikeouts. She hit three batters, including Brochu twice. Three of the four runs she allowed were earned.
“I think I definitely could have done a lot better,” said Fogarty, who is in her second year on the team, but her first season as a full-time starter. “Those eight walks definitely stress not only me but my whole team, but we eventually pulled through.”
Perkins said Fogarty’s ability to bounce back “just shows how much of a great pitcher she is and her potential to get better.”
Mattituck didn’t have a lot hits, either. The Tuckers managed only four, two of those coming from Aniah Thompson, whose chopped single through the infield brought Mattituck its first run in the first. Later that inning, Burns scored on an errant throw home.
The biggest hit of the day belonged to Perkins. She knocked a two-run single into centerfield and Jaden Thompson followed Jillian Gaffga and Burns home when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, making it 6-0. One batter earlier, Jaden Thompson had worked a bases-loaded walk.
Perkins said when difficult situations arise and she meets with Fogarty in the pitching circle, she encourages the young pitcher and reminds her that she has seven fielders behind her. “And I try to make her laugh,” Perkins said. “That usually helps.”
Now Fogarty, who has pitched all but five innings this season, can add this two-hitter to some of her other memorable performances this season: a season-opening one-hitter against Southold/Greenport, a three-hitter versus Center Moriches and a one-hitter against Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island.
What is Gerstung’s take on Fogarty’s middle-inning control issue?
“I have no idea what the theory is because she always comes back in the sixth and seventh innings, just like she did,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s psychological or mental.
“She’s building a little bit more confidence, and that’s key with a pitcher, mental toughness, so that when she does walk three, four batters in a row, she doesn’t really let herself get down.”
Photo caption: Mattituck freshman pitcher Lilly Fogarty (13-6) tossed a two-hitter, with eight walks, seven strikeouts and three hit batters. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)