TUCKERS 11, MONARCHS 10
The mood both before and during the early going of the game could best be described as sedate. A sadness hung over Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s baseball diamond like a cloud. It was almost palpable.
The player who wasn’t there was undoubtedly on the minds of Mattituck and McGann-Mercy players alike. In addition to sharing a sense of neighborly camaraderie because of their geographic proximity to each other, the Tuckers and the Monarchs had something else in common on Thursday: concern for Joe Crosser.
The teams played with heavy hearts as players from both sides lamented the absence of Crosser, the McGann-Mercy senior who suffered a terrible ankle injury during practice two days earlier. Crosser was sliding into third base when his right ankle snapped sideways in an awkward manner, said Monarchs coach Ed Meier. Meier, who said Crosser suffered multiple breaks to the ankle, called it the worst thing he had ever seen. Morphine was administered on the field to Crosser. Meier said using the word “horrific” to describe the injury would be an understatement.
Crosser, who lives in Cutchogue and played for Mattituck’s summer team, is expected to undergo surgery on Friday.
One of Crosser’s teammates and close friends, senior second baseman Keith Schroeher, witnessed the gruesome scene.
“Just a freak accident,” Schroeher said. “He slid into third, his cleat got caught or something. It was pretty bad. We’re all concerned. You can’t stop thinking about something like that.”
Those sentiments were echoed in the opposing dugout. Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro, on behalf of his team, hand delivered a get-well card to Crosser at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead on Wednesday.
“I think it affects everybody,” DeCaro said. “We kind of consider Mercy our friends. We know these guys. We’re right next door. We’re kind of linked to them through Joe.”
And yet, there was still a game to be played.
The hospital is next door to the McGann-Mercy baseball field. It was said that Crosser’s hospital room offers a view of right field. If Crosser watched Thursday’s game from that room, he saw his teammates put up a good fight against Mattituck, only to fall short in the end. Mattituck, benefiting from a controversial call at home plate, held off McGann-Mercy’s comeback attempt for an 11-10 victory. With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Mattituck reliever John Schultz got Christian Lynch to fly out, ending the game and earning himself a two-out save.
McGann-Mercy had made it a one-run game earlier in the inning. Marco Pascale, who led off with a single, raced home when a hit by Coner Galvin skipped past an outfielder. The next batter, Owen Gilpin, walked and stole second base.
And then the controversy. On the same play in which Gilpin stole second, drawing a throw from Mattituck catcher Cameron Burt, Galvin broke from third base for home plate. Burt stretched to reach a high return throw from shortstop Marcos Perivolaris before coming down to make a tag on a close play. Galvin was called out.
McGann-Mercy coaches angrily argued the call, to no avail.
Then walks issued to Schroeher and Patrick Stepnoski loaded the bases for Lynch, whose fly ball settled into right fielder Dylan Goguen’s glove for the game’s final out.
Mattituck first baseman Travis Zurawski referred to it as “escaping with a win.” Asked if he felt relieved, the senior replied: “A sense of relief? I don’t know. I don’t think it should have been that close to begin with.”
Mattituck (6-4 overall and in Suffolk County League VIII) took the lead for good in the fifth inning when it produced four runs from five hits for an 11-9 lead. George Lessard bounced a two-run single between the third baseman and shortstop to snap a 9-9 tie.
Zurawski knocked in three runs. James Finora added two runs batted in.
Stepnoski homered for the third time this season, crushing a three-run shot over the center-field fence as part of his four-RBI game. The senior shortstop went 3 for 3 (one of those hits was a double) and walked twice.
Tony Mercuri and John Dillon added two RBI apiece for McGann-Mercy (3-7, 3-7).
Meier, whose nine-year career record stood at 99-71 after the loss, said he liked the way his players showed their concern and support for Crosser.
“I think they rallied around it,” he said. “That was a spirited effort today. I think it showed how much resolve and fight these guys have after losing a lot of close baseball games and a lot of injuries and tragedies. Joey’s was a tragedy. That was beyond an injury. And to come out here and put another spirited effort shows just what these guys are made of.”
The loss of Crosser, the latest in a series of injuries the Monarchs have suffered this season, is a severe blow to the team’s playoff prospects. Crosser is one of the team’s top players, a shortstop and a starting pitcher. He batted first or second in the order.
Crosser is also well-liked, by coaches, teammates and opponents.
“He’s a real good guy,” Schroeher said. “He’s all for everybody. Actually the first thing that he said when he hurt himself was, ‘I let down the team.’ ”
Following Thursday’s proceedings, Crosser was still in the thoughts of players and coaches. Before leaving the field, DeCaro offered a few final words: “Get well, Joe.”