Tuckers hang tough against undefeated Babylon, gear up for playoff run

For a good portion of the baseball game on Thursday, Mattituck High School accomplished something not many teams have this season. The Tuckers made undefeated Babylon sweat just a bit.

After all, it is not everyday someone who hasn’t pitched much this year shuts down the best team in Suffolk County League IX and Class B into the fifth inning.

Even after the Panthers pulled away with five runs in the final two innings en route to a 5-2 victory in Babylon, the Tuckers were feeling pretty good about themselves.

Mattituck (12-6, 6-6) scored the first two runs off right-hander Daniel Madsen (county-best 9-0 in 48 innings this season.) Madsen struck out seven, walked none and allowed five hits.

“We showed a lot, man,” said senior righthander Mike Mowdy, who pitched a complete game in his second start this season. “I wish we got one today. But I think we really did put up a great effort showing that we could fight in the seventh inning with two out to get a base hit to score two.”

Added right fielder Brendan Buckley, who drove in the two runs: “We could have stolen one here, we really could have.”

The Tuckers needed a game like this after suffering a 13-6 home loss to Babylon (18-0, 13-0) on Wednesday.

“Definitely helps the team’s confidence especially going into Saturday against them,” said shortstop Dylan Spooner, who had one of those hits. “It was big for the boys just seeing Madsen and knowing that we could put the barrel on the ball and that we can play close with these guys.”

Normally a center fielder, Mowdy worked out of trouble danger in the opening four innings, leaving six runners stranded, including with the bases loaded in the first. He gave up six hits, struck out three and walked four.

Head coach Dan O’Sullivan was over the moon with his team’s performance.

“Proud, nothing but proud,” O’Sullivan said, noting he decided to pitch Mowdy on Thursday so he could use No. 1 starter Andrew Berman against Babylon in Saturday’s Senior Day game in the regular season finale at 10 a.m.

“We wanted to make sure that we had our best guy for that,” O’Sullivan added. “[Mowdy] kept us in the game, and he earned himself a spot in the playoff game, if need be, which is great.”

Babylon broke through in the fifth on John Harkins’ RBI triple and Mattingly Goldstein’s run-scoring infield hit. The Panthers added three more runs in the sixth, scoring on a balk, Cristino Tufano’s double and Harkins’ sacrifice fly to take a 5-0 advantage.

The game ended on an unusual note. With two outs in the seventh, Buckley drove in designated hitter James Reidy and shortstop Ben Voegel with a single to right. Buckley, however, was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double.

“My coach told me to stop but then I saw the throw home and I just got a late jump,” Buckley said. “When I saw it go home so my instinct was to go to second.”

O’Sullivan took the blame.

“I’m never going to fault him,” he said. “I preach aggressiveness to these guys all the time. Most times it works. There’s been a couple times we’ve been thrown out, but they trust me.  It’s on me. If something bad happens, it’s my fault.”

Regardless of what transpires Saturday, Mattituck will play Center Moriches (10-7, 6-7) in the best-of-three semifinals. The first game is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16, with the next on Thursday, May 18 and, if needed, a third on Friday, May 19 (all games are at 4 p.m.). The higher seed will host every game. The winner will meet Babylon in a three-game series for the Class B crown the week of May 22.

“We’re not going to know the seeding until probably Saturday night,” O’Sullivan said. “There’s a good chance it’s going to finish as a split. We both went two and two against each other. If it comes down to common opponents, they can go one or two ways but we’re ready.” 

Despite the defeat, the Tuckers were optimistic.

“I’m so excited for the playoffs,” Mowdy said. “I really think we can make a run. I don’t know if people expect us to but we have a good team. It is going to click in the playoffs. I just can’t wait for it.”