Monarchs pound ball, C. Moriches

By the end of Monday’s baseball game, Bishop McGann-Mercy Coach Ed Meier’s scorebook was a mess. A few minutes after nearly 300 pitches were thrown, he was still thinking up new ways to describe the Monarchs’ hitting exhibition in a 21-7 rout of Suffolk County League VIII rival Center Moriches.

“We came to hit today,” Meier said. “That was about a series’ worth of hitting right in one game right there.”

The playoff-bound Monarchs hit three home runs, including two two-run blasts from Rocco Pascale and Connor Stepnoski as part of a six-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning against the Red Devils’ starter, Chris Denton.

But that was just the beginning. In the fourth, the Monarchs (12-4, 9-4) knocked Denton out of the game with six more. And in the fifth, Tom Kretz capped off the last of the Monarchs’ three straight six-run innings, this one against reliever Sonny Saguto, with a grand slam, the first of his high school career. “It felt good,” Kretz said.

In those three innings, the second-place Monarchs made 29 plate appearances, scoring 18 runs on 16 hits, two walks, a hit batsman and five errors by the first-place Red Devils (10-6, 10-3).

In all, the Monarchs collected 20 hits and, except for the sixth inning, never sent fewer than six batters to the plate in an inning. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit. Keith Schroeher and Chris Sachalk led the way with four hits apiece. Schroeher batted in every inning, scoring three runs and driving two in. The only Monarch without a run batted in was Al Yakabowski, but he scored four runs.

“I didn’t expect this to happen,” Kretz said. “I think it surprised all of us.”

Judging from the Red Devils’ reactions, a big reason why the Monarchs got so many hittable pitches was because the strike zone was being squeezed in every direction when Denton and Saguto were on the mound for the Red Devils, and then somewhat expanded when Tom Tenaglia was on the mound for the Monarchs.

The first indication of the Red Devils’ unhappiness came in the third inning when Tenaglia recorded the last of his five strikeouts. After Bill Banducci was rung up on what he thought was ball three, he dropped his bat to the ground and swore.

In the fifth, with Saguto on the mound, a ball was called on a pitch that Center Moriches Coach Mike Garofola thought was a strike. After expressing his displeasure, Garofola was warned that one more comment about balls and strikes would get him ejected from the game.

It was not the first warning the Red Devils received. Bats and gloves were slammed onto the ground, and helmets chucked against the dugout’s back wall several times. They came after calls the Red Devils disagreed with.

Twice they were certain they had an out at first base, only to hear the field umpire call a Monarch safe because, to his eye, the foot of Center Moriches first baseman Joe Gonzales was not on the bag.

After scoring three runs in the fourth, the Red Devils left the bases loaded. The Red Devils committed at least one error every inning, and eight for the game.

And after a Center Moriches runner was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple to lead off the fifth, a helmet clanged off the dugout fence. Play was interrupted as the home-plate umpire told them that if another piece of equipment was thrown, a player or coach would be ejected.

Garofola would not discuss the game afterwards, saying only, “You don’t want to talk to me.”

If the Monarchs sweep the series, they will win the league championship. But even if they do not, they will still head to the postseason for the fourth time in five years. Meier said the team petitioned Section XI last year after a 9-11 finish that included a record of three games above .500 against other Class C teams. It was denied.

“That left a bad taste not just in my mouth, but in a lot of these guys’ mouths,” Meier said.