May 24, 2006
Tuckers Wrest Three From Mariners
"You could just call it the Brian Tardif series," said Mattituck varsity baseball head coach Steve DeCaro as he spoke about the Tuckers' three-game sweep of Southampton that put his team in contention to win the League VII title.
"Brian made some outstanding catches, pitched great, and came through with some big hits for us." Leading 7-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the series opener last Thursday, all indicators pointed towards an easy win for Mattituck (14-5 in League VII) before Southampton scored six runs to tie the game at 7-7 and push the contest into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, the Tuckers wasted little time in jumping in front 8-7 as Alex Sirico crushed a Mariners pitch offering deep over the leftfield fence for a solo home run. Tardif, a sophomore, would enter the game in a relief appearance and strike out the first two Southampton batters he faced before fielding a come-backer to the mound and throwing to first place to solidify the 8-7 win.
Tardif went 2-for-4 at the plate in that game with two stolen bases and two runs scored while starting pitcher Kyle Pumillo pitched six-plus innings, recording four strikeouts and allowing only one earned run,0 a mammoth home run off the bat of Mariners senior Noah Hatfield-Biondo.
Two Mattituck outfield errors, coupled with too few walks and two hits led to six Mariners runs in the seventh before Mattituck battled back to win the game. "It was one of those games where a bounce their [Southampton's] way, gives them the win," said DeCaro.
In the second game of the series, played last Friday, Mattituck won 5-4 thanks to a pair of highlight-reel catches from Tardif. With one out and Zach Epley standing at the plate in the seventh inning, representing the tying run (Kevin Mockler was on second base), the Mariners' chances of another successful comeback appeared likely especially after Epley hit a drive to right field that looked very much like a home run.
That was until Tardif, playing right field, tracked the ball down with a strong jump and a leaping catch that sent him (and the ball, tucked securely in his glove), over the Tuckers' breakaway fence for the second out of the game.
Mockler had time to tag up at second base and score to cut Mattituck's lead to 5-4 as Tardif leapt back over the fence and sent a long throw to the cutoff man in short right field. "Realistically, it should have been a dead ball, but we [both he and Southampton coach Duane Arnister] were fine with it [the call]."
Mattituck wasn't out of harm's way just yet as the next two Mariners hitters — Brandon Arnister and Hatfield Biondo, each hit sharp singles to bring Nick Epley to the plate. This time, Tardif robbed Nick Epley of a game-winning hit by making a diving catch in right center on a line drive to end the game. "It wasn't as incredible as his first catch a few minutes earlier, but it was pretty good nonetheless," DeCaro said.
Senior Joe Finora, normally responsible for playing the role of the Tuckers' pitching ace, played first base last Friday and had a key double to go along with his two RBI. Jake Sisson put Mattituck ahead with a sacrifice fly that scored Finora in the fifth inning. Sirico was the winning pitcher.
Will Steinke went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, and a stolen base for Southampton.
"We've had some tremendous defense from our team this year, but I think that Brian's catch at the fence and Don Fahey's play against Bayport were the two best defensive plays in high school baseball this season," DeCaro said.
The season finale, played on Saturday, was the only game that had a clear-cut winner from the start as Mattituck leapt out to an early lead and won 15-4. Tardif picked up the win, his second of the series, pitching six innings, allowing one earned run and striking out six Southampton (5-13 in League VII) batters. "He was pretty dominating," said DeCaro.
Tardif also went 2-for-3 with four runs scored, two stolen bases, a walk and an RBI. "Brian's a terrific worker and he knows how to play the game."
The Tuckers also saw several other players contribute to the offensive barrage as Pat Claire went 2-for-3 with two RBI, a walk, a run scored, Keith Connell delivered a 2-for-4 game with an RBI and a run scored and sophomore Rich Ireland went 1-for-2 with a home run, the first of his varsity career. Ireland also had two RBI and two walks.
"We knew that we had to sweep Southampton to stay in it [the race for the League VII title] and besides all the distractions with the weather and the kids' prom, we were still able to win all three," said DeCaro. "We'd rather play at home [for the start of the playoffs], so we kind of answered the bell yesterday and played pretty well."