Baseball can be the most fickle of sports. One day a team looks like a world-beater; another day, it seems to be unable to do much right.
Southold can relate. Just four games into its high school season, the First Settlers have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Tuesday’s game had too much of the latter for Southold’s taste. To be more precise, too many errors: seven.
“They’re way worse than hits,” Southold coach Greg Tulley said of his team’s fielding miscues in the opener to its three-game Suffolk County League VIII series against host Port Jefferson, an 8-0 loss at Scofield-Desiderio Park. “I’d rather they hit the ball all over the place. We just didn’t play to our potential today.”
Both teams sent their aces to the pitching mound. Southold’s Brendan Duffy is a SUNY/Oneonta commit and Port Jefferson’s Luke Filippi has committed to Albany.
If the self-inflicted errors weren’t enough to hurt Southold’s cause, Filippi was. The righthander allowed three hits and three walks, striking out 10 in six innings in Port Jefferson’s season opener.
“He had good stuff,” Southold infielder Tom Cardi said. “He had a good offspeed. His fastballs are nice. I mean, nothing too special. I think we should have put the bat on the ball a little bit more, find a couple of holes.”
Southold’s only three hits on the day all went to rightfield: Duffy’s first-pitch ground single in the first inning, a double Cardi drove to lead off the fourth and Jay Tramontana’s single in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Port Jefferson mounted consecutive three-run innings in the third and fourth to break the game open with a 7-0 lead. Four of Southold’s errors came in the third, including two on one play that allowed a run in. Later, Abby Rolfe bounced an RBI single past sprawling third baseman Gavin Fredricks for a 4-0 lead.
“We’ve definitely had a major focus on fielding this year, and we’ve really done a good job cleaning it up,” Duffy said, “but we just didn’t have it today and that definitely affected the game.”
Port Jefferson opened its half of the fourth with four straight singles, including Kyle Erickson’s hit for the first of his two RBIs, making it 5-0. Duffy did well to snag Daniel Owens’ hard line drive before firing to first baseman Dylan Newman for a bang-bang double play. But the next batter, Rory Rago, chopped a two-run double down the leftfield line.
Filippi and Erickson led Port Jefferson’s 10-hit attack with two hits each.
Duffy (1-1) had seven strikeouts against eight hits and four walks in four innings of work. He allowed five earned runs.
Referring to the errors, Duffy said: “That definitely played a part in it, but I didn’t have all my pitches today, so I didn’t have my best stuff, either. So I do take some of the blame.”
Tulley said: “Brendan looked great. He was hitting his spots early on. He had a couple of different pitches working for him. Danny [Cartselos] was doing a great job behind the plate, stealing a couple of calls. You know, we just didn’t back them up today.”
Fielding woes aside, Southold turned in one particularly notable — and unusual — defensive play. Port Jefferson’s second batter of the game, Filippi, stroked a fly ball that rightfielder Bobby Corazzini tracked and got a glove on. The ball glanced off the glove and he grabbed with his bare right hand for the out. That’s a different way of using two hands to make a catch.
The loss followed Southold’s season-opening, three-game sweep of Hampton Bays.
“You can be great one day; the next day the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” Tulley said. “It just happens, but we’re gonna learn from it and be better tomorrow.
“Port Jeff’s a good team. We did play much better last week. So, hoping today’s just a little blip on the radar, a bad day kind of thing, and tomorrow we will be the team we were last week.”
Tulley added: “I told the kids, tomorrow when I see them, today didn’t happen. They got tonight to think about it and such, but tomorrow is a new day.”
The series continues Wednesday in Southold and Friday in Port Jefferson.
Asked what’s the best thing Southold can do after a game like this, Cardi indicated amnesia would be a good thing.
“Forget,” he said. “Go home, go to bed, wake up tomorrow and it’s a new day tomorrow.”