To teammates who kiddingly joked before the season that Nate Demchak had become a PO, well, the joke’s on them.
PO — baseball shorthand for “pitcher only” — doesn’t come close to indicating what Demchak has meant to the Mattituck High School baseball team. What Demchak has done on the pitching mound for the Tuckers may only be surpassed by the damage the senior has caused in the batter’s box.
It was all on display Tuesday when Demchak, the pitcher, registered a career-high 12 strikeouts and surrendered two hits in six innings of a 6-1 Senior Day win over visiting Port Jefferson. Demchak, the batter, did his part, too, doubling, walking, stealing a base and scoring two runs from the cleanup spot.
But to fully appreciate what Demchak has done this season, look at his season numbers. He maintained his team-leading .500 batting average (25-for-50). He has driven in 21 runs, homered twice and scored 16 runs. As a pitcher, he is 2-1 and he lowered his ERA to 1.46 from 1.84.
“What he’s doing right now, it’s insane,” said second baseman Brady Mahon.
The numbers are quite remarkable.
Demchak had eight Ks through four innings Tuesday. On the other side of the ledger, he walked four batters and hit two with pitches in his 108-pitch outing.
“He was just on fire,” Mattituck’s first-year head coach, Dan O’Sullivan, said. “That’s been him all year. He battles from first pitch to last pitch.”
The only hits off Demchak were Tommy Yost’s slow-rolling infield single that left shortstop Connor Fox with no play and Daniel Owens’ bloop single to shallow leftfield.
Port Jefferson put its sole run on the scoreboard in the third inning when a Ruairi Rago fly ball fell into rightfield, allowing Owens to score. An error was charged on the play, so the run was unearned.
“I just wanted to come out, pump the zone, really just get a win, and I think the whole team played great, a 6-1 win,” Demchak said after his final regular-season pitching start in Mattituck.
The Tuckers (10-5, 10-5 Suffolk County League V) had two more games remaining on the schedule, Wednesday at Mount Sinai and Friday at home to Bayport-Blue Point. O’Sullivan expects Mattituck to have a home playoff game next Tuesday.
Mattituck’s pitching rotation has been a strength, for sure, with Fox (4-1, 2.15 ERA), Demchak and Mahon (2-1, 2.33). Garrett Grathwohl has been the first-choice closer.
Mahon had three RBIs from a run-scoring infield single as part of Mattituck’s three-run first and a bloop double that scored two for a 5-1 lead in the third.
The first two Mattituck runs came on a Michael Mowdy sacrifice fly and a wild pitch that allowed Demchak to score.
Mattituck tacked on a run in the fifth when Grathwohl lined an RBI single over the leaping second baseman to bring home Demchak, who had walked and stolen second base beforehand.
Grathwohl pitched a perfect seventh in relief.
An interesting sidenote: Port Jefferson (5-11, 5-11) has a female starting leftfielder, Abby Rolfe, who coach Jesse Rosen thinks highly of. She struck out twice and hit into a fielder’s choice.
Demchak said he often talks about hitting with teammate Bryce Hansen. “My main focus is just really trying to put a barrel on the ball and make hard contact,” he said.
Under Mattituck’s previous coach, Steve DeCaro (who was in attendance at Tuesday’s game), Demchak was a backup catcher, who didn’t pitch much. This season Demchak has mostly played second base when not pitching, and has caught twice.
“I think, honestly, the catching helped,” O’Sullivan said. “I really think now that he’s on the other side of it, he really understands the counts, the pitch, what he’s going to do.”
So, the question had to be asked: Is Demchak better as a hitter or a pitcher?
That question stumped more than one of the Tuckers. “I don’t think there is an answer to that,” said O’Sullivan.
Those who good-naturedly joked that Demchak was a PO couldn’t have been more wrong, and that works to Mattituck’s benefit. So, what does one call Demchak now?
“Uh, I don’t know,” Mahon said. “I guess he’s a baseball player.”
Mattituck started its four seniors — Fox, Demchak, designated hitter John Jacobs and leftfielder Evan Bailey.
“It definitely really was special,” Fox said. “I’ve been with this group of guys, you know, since I was 5 years old. So, to finally be out here and see it all kind of closing, it’s definitely like a sad realization that it’s all coming to an end. I’d definitely like a good way to go out, though.”