05/23/13 7:59pm
05/23/2013 7:59 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold shortstop Noah Mina lunging to his right for a sharp grounder that shot by him.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold shortstop Noah Mina lunging to his right for a sharp grounder that shot by him.

SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | ROYALS 10, FIRST SETTLERS 3

It was a fairly even high school baseball game — except for that one devastating inning.

Third-seeded Port Jefferson erupted for eight runs in the third inning, paving the way for a 10-3 victory that knocked No. 2 Southold out of the double-elimination Suffolk County Class C Tournament on Thursday at Southold High School.

Port Jefferson (7-13), which petitioned for and was granted a waiver to compete in the playoffs, advances to a game against No. 1 Pierson/Bridgehampton on Saturday in Sag Harbor. If Pierson/Bridgehampton wins that game, it will be crowned a county champion for the second year in a row. If Port Jefferson wins, the teams will meet again on the same field Tuesday for the title.

The bulk of the damage done by Port Jefferson’s bats came in that third inning.

“It’s ironic because that’s what we did to them,” said Southold third baseman Rob Mahony, referring to a 10-run shelling in the sixth inning of a 15-7 win over Port Jefferson in the first playoff game for both teams six days earlier. “We got a taste of our own medicine.”

It was bitter, too.

The Royals picked up seven of their 10 hits during that crippling third-inning rally, which featured two-run singles by Erik Esposito and Joe Booker. By the end of the inning in which Port Jefferson made 12 plate appearances, the score was 10-0.

“We needed to hit, and we hit,” said Booker, the winning pitcher who allowed two hits and no runs over three innings.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Port Jefferson second baseman Ben Kluender tagging out Southold's Sean Moran on an attempted steal in the third inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Port Jefferson second baseman Ben Kluender tagging out Southold’s Sean Moran on an attempted steal in the third inning.

Southold’s starting pitcher, Alex Poliwoda, celebrated his 16th birthday. A playoff win would have been a fine birthday gift, but it wasn’t in the cards. He was relieved by Anthony Fedele after three innings.

“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game today,” Southold coach Mike Carver said. He added: “One bad inning. Poli didn’t have his stuff today, and it happens. He’s a young pitcher, and some days you got it, and some days you don’t.”

Another thing the First Settlers didn’t have was their first-string center fielder, Shayne Johnson. Johnson broke his left wrist two days earlier, the result of a terrible fall he suffered after dunking a basketball. The sophomore watched the game from the bench, wearing his team jersey as well as a cast on his arm.

Anthony Esposito, who usually plays left field or third base, was moved to center field, and played well, catching two fly balls.

Meanwhile, Port Jefferson also took the field without one of its regular starters. James Tsunic, a second baseman, was hit in the head by a ball during pregame warmups, and sat out.

Regardless, Port Jefferson enjoyed good offensive production, with seven of its players getting at least one hit. Booker, Erik Esposito and Mark Acardo each had two runs batted in for the game. Erik Esposito also scored three times.

Southold (14-9) plated all of its runs in the sixth inning, two of them coming from Mahony’s second hit of the game, a double to center field. Shortly after that, Mahony scored Southold’s third run on a groundout by Anthony Esposito.

Port Jefferson is an underdog. The Royals, who played primarily against Class B competition in League VIII, petitioned to get into the playoffs, and now they are two wins away from a county title. That will not be easy, though. Those two wins will have to come against Pierson/Bridgehampton, and on the Whalers’ home field at Mashashimuet Park.

If nothing else, though, Port Jefferson’s victory on Thursday justified its placement in the playoffs.

Over the course of the regular season, Port Jefferson posted quality wins over two Class B playoff teams, Center Moriches and Babylon.

“I’ll be perfectly honest with you,” Port Jefferson coach Jesse Rosen said. “There wasn’t really a feeling throughout the later portion of our season that we weren’t going to be in the playoffs.”

Southold will lose only three seniors: Dillon Engels, Preston Jolliver and Rob Patchell. Engels was the only starter among them.

The team is looking forward to good things next year, especially with the development of young players like the athletic Johnson, Poliwoda and freshman infielder Noah Mina.

“Noah Mina was probably the biggest, pleasant surprise of the year,” Carver said. “Wow, what an infielder.”

Mahony said: “We had some skill and we had a lot of effort. That’s why we got to where we got.”

Anthony Esposito said it was a “great” season for Southold. “Unfortunately, we had that one unfortunate inning.”

[email protected]

05/07/13 7:58pm
05/07/2013 7:58 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris can't reach Port Jefferson's first hit of the game, a single bounced up the middle by Joe Booker in the third inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris can’t reach Port Jefferson’s first hit of the game, a single bounced up the middle by Joe Booker in the third inning.

TUCKERS 9, ROYALS 0

Port Jefferson batters weren’t the only ones baffled by that pitch that Mattituck’s Cameron Burt was throwing, freezing right-handed hitters and giving them a world of trouble.

One knowledgeable baseball observer said it was a slurve.

Port Jefferson coach Jesse Rosen said Burt showed “a real nice 12-6 curveball for a high school kid, and we had a hard time dealing with it.”

What exactly was that breaking pitch? Go directly to the source, and it still will not do you much good.

“Actually I have no clue what it is,” Burt, a right-hander, said. “I just kind of throw it. I hold it and I throw it. It moves away from righties.”

It moved well enough on Tuesday when Burt and Chris Dwyer combined for a two-hitter as Mattituck clinched a playoff berth by beating Port Jefferson, 9-0, in a League IX game at Scofield-Desiderio Park in Port Jefferson. The Tuckers will return to the playoffs after a one-year absence for their eighth postseason in 11 years.

“We kind of expect it,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said. “It would be the minimum that we would expect of our team, to get into the playoffs.”

After being swept in a three-game series by Southampton, Mattituck bounced back in a big way in the opener of its three-game series versus Port Jefferson. The Tuckers (11-7, 10-6) looked good in all facets of the game, starting with their No. 1 pitcher.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck batters like Will Gildersleeve made good contact against Port Jefferson.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck batters like Will Gildersleeve made good contact against Port Jefferson.

Burt (5-1) worked the first six innings, during which he recorded eight strikeouts and four walks (one intentional). He also hit a batter.

“He ran a lot of deep counts, he walked a couple of guys,” DeCaro said. “He pitched O.K. today. He’s much better than that. He’s been our ace all year. We weren’t even sure we were going to have an ace this year, and he’s been it.”

The only hits Port Jefferson (6-10, 6-10) managed were back-to-back singles by Joe Booker and James Murphy in the third inning.

“He looked fantastic,” Rosen said of Burt.

Mattituck took a 1-0 lead in the third. John Schultz led off by scrambling into second base for a double before later scoring on a groundout by Dwyer.

The Tuckers tacked on two more runs in the fourth through a sacrifice fly by Brian Pelan and a throwing error that allowed James Nish to score. Pelan, who played catcher, returned to action after sitting out a game with an ankle injury.

Pelan is the closest the Tuckers have to an indispensable player. His backup at catcher is, well, Burt. “It’s hard to pitch and catch at the same time,” said DeCaro.

The Mattituck coach liked what he saw from Pelan. “He looked pretty good behind the plate,” DeCaro said. “He threw out a guy stealing, so you can’t ask for much more than that and, as always, he called a good game.”

It was in the sixth when Mattituck really broke the game open with a five-run rally highlighted by Joe Tardif’s two-run single laced into center field and Will Gildersleeve’s run-scoring single to left. Nish and Tardif also scored on two of the four errors by Port Jefferson that inning. The Royals made six errors in the game; Mattituck had none.

Mattituck closed out the scoring in the seventh. Ian Nish led off with a double that landed near the center-field fence. One out later, Ryan Finger lined a single to left, bringing Nish home.

Dwyer retired three of the four batters he faced in the seventh to finish the game.

Certainly, it wasn’t the smoothest of outings for Burt. He had to pull an escape act in the fifth when he hit the first batter, Tyler D’Accordi with a pitch before walking the second, Michael Laffey. After a sacrifice bunt by James Tsunic, Burt intentionally walked Booker to load the bases. James Murphy then bounced into a 1-2 fielder’s choice, and Sam Eagan fouled out to the third baseman, Gildersleeve, ending the threat.

Port Jefferson was already mathematically eliminated from gaining the 10 league wins necessary for an automatic playoff berth, but there is another way for the Class C Royals to get into the postseason.

Asked if he will petition Section XI for a playoff place, Rosen replied, “Yes we are, and if we don’t get in, it’s criminal.”

Port Jefferson missed reaching the playoffs last year by one game, snapping a string of eight straight postseasons for the Royals.

Mattituck is certain that it will be in the playoffs, along with Burt and his mystery pitch.

Perhaps Tardif, the center fielder, could shed some light on why Burt is so effective.

“From center, you can see his fastball,” he said. “It starts on the inner half and goes to the out. It’s like a slider almost. It’s really tough, even in practice, [and] we know it’s coming.”

[email protected]