Tuckers drop two straight to Center Moriches, ending playoff hopes

Mattituck High School was eliminated from the Suffolk County Class B baseball playoffs, losing at Center Moriches, 7-4, on Thursday, May 18. The Tuckers (12-9), who dropped their sixth consecutive game, lost twice in the best-of-three semifinal series.

The Tuckers dropped a 13-9 home contest to their long-time rivals in the series opener.

“Obviously a tough loss,” center fielder Dylan Spooner said.

It was a back and forth game Tuesday between two teams that were evenly matched during the regular season, splitting their four games. Three contests were decided by two runs or less. The teams accrued 31 runs, total.

“You got to credit them,” Mattituck head coach Dan O’Sullivan said after Tuesday’s home loss. “All year long they’ve been a team that’s very patient. They got their walks. They were hit by pitches. They put barrels on the ball. They found holes early in the game. The wind definitely played a factor, but they hit the ball hard.”

Sophomore righthander Ben Voegel, who blanked the Red Devils May 4 in a 2-0 victory, wasn’t able to match that performance Tuesday. Voegel, who hurled a no-hitter against Greenport earlier this season, struggled, especially with his control. He lasted just 2 and 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs and eight hits while striking out three and hitting three batters.

“He’s usually a pitcher that’s down in the zone,” O’Sullivan said. “He definitely was up a little bit more today. They did get pitches that he just missed. It’s got to be nerves. He played last year but never threw in a playoff game. It’s a tough spot to put him in.”

The Red Devils took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first as first baseman Max Rayburn doubled home Luke Robe and Gavin DeRosa, the first of five RBIs. Mattituck got one back on Ryan Janis’s single to right in the bottom half against righthander Riley Morris.

Center Moriches (11-9) put three more runs on the board in the second inning on Evan Kaloski’s run-scoring single and DeRosa’s two-run single. With two swift swings of the bat, the Tuckers transformed a 5-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the inning. Spooner ripped a bases-loaded double and two pitches later, Berman, playing third base, belted a home run to left, his third this season.

“We can thank the wind for that one,” Berman said. “I didn’t really see where it landed. But it got out quick and that’s probably the wind.”

That advantage didn’t last long as the visitors scored five runs in the top of the third with two outs. The inning was highlighted by Luke Rebore’s RBI single, DeRosa’s bases-loaded walk and Rayburn’s three-run double to center for a 10-6 margin.

The Tuckers tried to make it close. Berman’s double to center drove in Brenden Buckley in the fourth.

What the wind gives, it also can take away. With Spooner on first in the sixth, Berman clubbed a drive to deep center that turned into a sacrifice fly, sending Spooner to third. Spooner scored on Janis’ single.

“The wind killed it in the middle of the air,” Berman said.

Mattituck loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh. But with the tying run at the plate, reliever John Johnston, who allowed just one run in the final three innings, retired Buckley, Mike Mowdy and Spooner to earn the save.

The Tuckers were optimistic they would win Thursday and return home for the third game Friday, but it wasn’t in the cards this season. Joey Hiller pitched a complete game and struck out nine for the Red Devils (12-8) in the series clincher Thursday. Center Moriches will meet top-seeded Babylon (19-0) for the county title in a best-of-three series beginning Monday.