PORT JEFFERSON STATION — There could not have been another batter the Port Jefferson Royals would have less enjoyed seeing at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs than Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Rocco Pascale.
The Monarchs were trailing, 4-3, with one out in the top of the seventh inning last Thursday at Port Jefferson High School in a game they ultimately won to clinch the Suffolk County Class C championship.
A day and a victory earlier, Pascale was at the plate with two runners on and the Monarchs leading the Royals, 3-2, in the fifth inning. With one swing, Pascale doubled the Monarchs’ run count on the way to a 13-2 opening-game blowout. He finished last Wednesday going 3 for 4 with the home run and five runs batted in. Before his seventh inning at-bat last Thursday, Pascale had a single and a four-pitch walk in three trips to the plate.
With one out, he said, he was not looking for a grand slam. He just wanted to hit the ball into the outfield and score the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Royals pitcher Chris Esposito fell behind 2-0 in the count.
“I’m almost thinking if they walk him there what a shame that would be,” Monarchs Coach Ed Meier said. “Even though we would have tied the game on a walk, I would have been disappointed if they pitched around him there.”
Esposito did not, coming in with a fastball that Pascale watched for strike one. Esposito tried a second fastball, but Pascale was not going to be satisfied just watching it.
“I just put my head down, didn’t try to do too much,” Pascale said after the game. “Just a sweet swing.”
The ball started for right center field, and as the ball and the outfielders drifted back, Meier thought it might do more than tie the score.
“Bases loaded, that’s a tough jam for anyone,” Meier said. “[Pascale] put a good cut on the outside ball. I was just hoping it was going out. That’s as big a hit as you can get in baseball. High school, college, whatever, you can’t get bigger than that.”
Pascale has hit home runs in four of the Monarchs’ last five games. Meier said Pascale has been able to have such success because he is confident at the plate, and he does not waste any motion in his swing. Pascale hit four home runs and another four doubles during a regular season in which he led the team with a .440 batting average and walked 10 times in 18 games. In two postseason games, Pascale is batting .750 with two home runs and nine RBI.
“It’s tough because other teams don’t know how to pitch him,” Meier said. “Trying off-speed, trying away, trying inside and it really hasn’t affected his rhythm up there.”
Over the course of the season, Pascale has acquired a flair for hitting home runs in key situations. The first came on the season’s opening day against S.S. Seward Institute. Pascale came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Monarchs trailing by 2-1. His home run tied the score, and later in the inning Keith Schroeher singled home Ian Traynor to win the game.
Pascale started his current tear in the opening game of the Monarchs’ final regular-season series against Center Moriches. With one out, Pascale homered to right field to ignite the first of three consecutive six-run innings for the Monarchs in their 21-7 win.
“He’s been so hot,” Meier said. “There’s no place to pitch him.”
There certainly was no safe place for Esposito to spot a pitch last Thursday, especially after falling behind in the count.
“That has to be such a moment for Rocco,” Meier said. “I’m so happy for him, such a good person for that to happen to.”