It wasn’t the loss that bothered Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs Coach Ed Meier so much as the way that his baseball team lost in the Southeast Region Class C final on Tuesday.
Six errors. Bad decisions in the batter’s box. General sloppiness.
It was uncharacteristic of the Monarchs, and that was what made their exit from the playoffs especially disappointing.
“That’s just not us,” Meier said. “I don’t know if we were tight or what it was. It just wasn’t our day.”
Obviously, it wasn’t. But it was a good day for the Tuckahoe Tigers. They stole seven bases — four by L. J. Gallo — en route to a 9-2 decision over the Monarchs at St. Joseph’s College’s Gregg Alfano Field in Patchogue.
As a result, Tuckahoe (15-6) will return to the New York State final four for the first time since 2002, the year it won its only state championship. Tuckahoe will play in the state semifinals on Saturday in Binghamton.
“It’s really important for us,” said Gallo, Tuckahoe’s junior shortstop. “It means like the world.”
For McGann-Mercy (17-6) it meant the end to a fine season. The Long Island champions progressed further into the postseason than they ever had during Meier’s eight years as their coach.
“Once we get over this disappointment, I think we’ll realize what we did this year and we can be proud of what we did,” Meier said, “but right now it hurts.”
Alex Melendez (6-2) did not allow an earned run over the six innings he pitched for Tuckahoe. He scattered six hits while walking two and striking out six before being relieved by Paul Luisi, who hurled a no-hitter against Yonkers earlier this season.
It was a sloppy game, with nine errors altogether. They had an impact, too. Eight errors were made before the first four and half innings were completed.
Tuckahoe didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard. The Tigers scored two runs in the top of the first inning and didn’t need a hit to do it. Three McGann-Mercy errors paved the way. Walks to Steve McCaun and Gallo set the stage. They both scored on a dropped fly ball in left field.
An error was involved in the bottom half of the inning when McGann-Mercy pulled a run back. Keith Schroeher, who reached base on a bloop single, then scored on an error when Rocco Pascale doubled.
After Melendez led off the third by grounding a single to left, he moved to second base on a wild pickoff attempt. McCaun then singled and Gallo hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, allowing Melendez to score for a 3-1 Tuckahoe lead.
Tuckahoe made its big move in the fifth, striking for four runs and a 7-1 advantage. Pinch runner Nick Manias scored on a wild pitch, Jamie Maldanado’s chopped infield single brought in another run, and Jason Feur and Justin Rosas both singled in runs.
The Tigers would have caused more damage had McGann-Mercy center fielder Pat Stepnoski not thrown two runners out at home plate in the inning. On Feur’s single, Jarrett Sommer tried to follow Lou Ballantonio home, but a great throw by Stepnoski to the catcher, Pascale, nailed him. Then, in a virtually identical situation, Stepnoski gunned down Feur, who tried to score along with Maldanado on Rosas’ single.
McGann-Mercy pulled a run back in the fifth. After Owen Gilpin and Pascale both singled and Schroeher reached base on a throwing error, Stepnoski blasted a two-single off the glove of the third baseman, McCaun. The Monarchs had the potential to rally for more runs but, with the bases loaded, Tom Kretz bounced a grounder that touched Pascale as he headed toward third base. Runner’s interference was called, ending the threat and the inning.
Tuckahoe tacked on two runs the next inning from a two-run double by Sommer, making it 9-2.
The loss left Meier’s career record at McGann-Mercy at 96-64 (.600).
“Just sometimes you don’t have it,” Pascale said. “We didn’t play our best. That happens.”
Tuckahoe was coming off a 2-1 win over the S.S. Seward Spartans the day before, but neither that nor a 90-minute bus ride seemed to slow them down on Tuesday.
“After coaching for 40 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that teenagers are very, very resilient,” Tuckahoe Coach John D’Arco said. “They come out and they lace it up, and they’re ready to play, day after day. We, the adults, make more of it mentally and physically. They were ready to play.”
“Just win the game,” Gallo said. “That was our mind-set. We just came focused.”
For McGann-Mercy’s four seniors — Will Affourtit, D. J. Willmott, Kretz and Pascale — it was their final game for the Monarchs.
“We had fun, and you know what? It was our time to end it,” Pascale said. “Tuckahoe goes on; we go home.”