Baseball: Monarchs nab second straight county crown

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Pat Stepnoski issued eight walks, but he also supplied four hits as Bishop McGann-Mercy wrapped up its second straight county championship.

After toiling hard to win a vital baseball game on a hot, sunny day, there’s nothing better than jumping into a bath or show to cool off.

The Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs did exactly that, although it was not necessarily the conventional way.

After securing the Suffolk County Class C championship for the second consecutive year, the entire team took a plunge into the pond beyond the left-field fence to celebrate after registering an 8-3 win over the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers in Riverhead on Tuesday.

“It’s disgusting. It smells terrible, but it’s something that makes us unique,” catcher Rocco Pascale said. “Not many schools have a pond in left field.”

The Monarchs followed tradition, which started before Coach Ed Meier’s teams won county championships in 2007 and 2010. Last year they clinched the crown on the road, so they had to wait a day before their wet celebration.

“Some came back, some went to their senior prom. They didn’t go and jump in,” Pascale said. “Some of the youngsters did. This is unifying. Everybody went in. I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t go in last year. They legitimately grabbed me and threw me in the water.”

Pascale smacked a two-run home run to key a five-run first inning that gave junior right-hander Pat Stepnoski some breathing room. Stepnoski struck out eight batters and limited Pierson/Bridgehampton (12-9) to two hits and one run over five and one-third innings before J. T. De Scalo closed out the game with four strikeouts.

McGann-Mercy (16-4) will play the Friends Academy Quakers for the Long Island championship at Farmingdale State College at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in a rematch of last year’s game.

Meier remembered that encounter — a 7-2 loss. He said Friends hit a grand slam and the Monarchs hit into four double plays.

“We were neck and neck with them,” he said. “They made the big plays and we didn’t. That’s tough to overcome in one game and that’s all it is — one game.”

Added Pascale: “I want to win the next one. I haven’t won that one. We didn’t play our best. They just did.”

So getting another opportunity at Friend was retribution, right?

“More than retribution,” Meier said. “It was the experience our guys had being there. It’s a nice venue. It’s a stadium. There’s a lot of people. It’s a big game. We can take that into it. So will they. That experience is better than the retribution, if it would occur.”

Tuesday’s game was almost over before it began. Shortstop Keith Schroeher hit a one-out double, which was followed by Pascale’s seventh homer of the season, a towering drive to right. D. J. Willmott and Owen Gilpin added run-scoring singles and an error helped another run score. The Monarchs added two more runs in the second inning.

“It ignited a little rally,” Pascale said of his blast. “It got everybody up. Putting something on the board right away, it gets everybody up. It puts the other team down as well. If you can knock them down real quick and put yourself up real quick, it almost sets the pace for everything.”

That was not lost on Meier.

“You can’t ask for a better start to put up a crooked number in the first inning,” he said. “That really relaxes our pitcher. He doesn’t have to be as perfect. You saw that he was struggling with control today a little bit. But when he was in the zone, he was tough to hit. Hot day. He battled for us.”

Stepnoski pitched in and out of trouble, thanks to eight walks, leaving the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings.

Pascale said Stepnoski was the most valuable player of the tournament, which included a win over the Port Jefferson Royals.

“He’s got this thing that he wants to overpower everybody,” he said. “Sometimes it could be a little frustrating because it’s hot. I always know good things are going to happen when he’s on the mound.”

These are exciting times for the Meier family. He said that he and his wife, Nicole, were expecting a child and were due “any moment now.”

“She was having contractions today actually,” he said.

The couple did not know the sex of the child, so they will be surprised whenever the delivery occurs.

Meier certainly wouldn’t mind the Monarchs delivering a surprise or two with a win on the field on Sunday as well.