Baseball: Tomcats’ closer hasn’t allowed a run yet

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead third baseman Alex Gouin used his glove as well as his bat to help the Tomcats top Southampton.

Things were getting a little tight down the stretch. Both the potential tying and winning runs were on base. The pressure was on.

That’s just the way Brett Schreiber likes it.

Indeed, it seems like Schreiber thrives under pressure. He’s a pitcher with a closer’s mentality. No wonder that’s the role he prefers.

“The tougher [the situation], the better” he is, said Tomcats Coach Randy Caden.

Well, the numbers don’t lie. With Schreiber’s third save of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League season Friday in the Tomcats’ 2-1 triumph over the Southampton Mariners, he extended an impressive run. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, in his eighth appearance of the season, extended his string of scoreless innings to 12 1/3 innings. What’s more, he has surrendered only five hits and two walks against 16 strikeouts, and has a 1-0 record.

“I think I throw harder when the game’s on the line,” he said.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | David Gibson pitched four scoreless innings for Riverhead, allowing two hits.

Schreiber’s inning of relief and a clutch catch by third baseman Alex Gouin enabled the Tomcats to hold on for the win, bringing their record to 7-7. The Breakers dropped to 5-8.

Schreiber, the fifth pitcher used by the Tomcats, entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and struck out the first two batters. It was the third and final out that proved a little tricky, though.

On an unseasonably cool, breezy day, visibility became an issue in the later innings as a heavy fog hovered above the Stony Brook Southampton field. After Schreiber fanned Robb Scott and pinch hitter Tim Swatek, Andrew Shimkus singled down the left-field line and Jordan Zech laced a single into right field, keeping Southampton’s hopes alive. Then, with runners at the corners, Schreiber got Steve Schrenk to hit a high popup in foul territory. Gouin managed to find the ball through the mist for the out.

Game over. Put another save in the books for Schreiber.

“This is him,” Caden said. “He usually doesn’t give up hits, either, but he did a great job again.”

Schreiber, who lives in Westbury and played for Clarke High School, recently completed a freshman season at Hofstra University in which he went 1-0 with a 4.95 earned run average. He said he was primarily used as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher, but wants to become a closer for the Pride.

If his stint with the Tomcats can be seen as an audition, he’s faring quite well.

Gouin said Schreiber is doing “an unbelievable job. Every time he goes out there, I’m sure the team feels very confident. He just gets it done.”

Schreiber, who throws a fastball, a slider and a changeup, said the wood bats in the ACBL make things a little easier.

The Tomcats scored a run in the third and fourth innings for a 2-0 lead. Their first two hits of the game came in the third. Mike Johnson doubled past right fielder Steve Harrington and Jamie Wollerman rapped another single to right field. That set up a sacrifice fly by Frank Schwindel. In the fourth, Ryan Lukach reached base on an error, stole second, and scored when Gouin slapped a single along the right-field line.

Riverhead’s starting pitcher, David Gibson, turned in four scoreless innings in which he allowed two hits. He walked two and struck out five.

The Tomcats missed golden opportunities to expand their lead in both the sixth and seventh innings. After the Tomcats loaded the bases with one out in the sixth — prompting the exit of starting pitcher Mike Campbell — reliever Raul Jacobson got Jim Luppens to look at a called third strike and Johnson to fly out to right field, ending the threat. The Tomcats nearly scored in the seventh. With Adam Michel on third base, Schwindel lined a single that struck the backside of an umpire, but Michel was unable to score. Jacobson then got Lukach looking at a third strike for the third out.

Caden, whose team left 10 runners on base, said: “We’ve been doing that all year, leaving guys on base. That’s our downfall right now, but hopefully that will come.”

Then it was Southampton’s turn to load the bases in the seventh. That was the inning in which the Breakers scored their run. A bunt single by Scott, a walk by Tito Marrero and a lined single by Shimkus made that run happen. Zech was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases and prompting Caden to bring in reliever Sean Cabrera. Cabrera got Schrenk to strike out looking.

A couple of innings later it would be Schreiber’s turn to take the mound. On a day like this, when the heat is on, it’s nice to have a pitcher like Schreiber who can bring some heat of his own and not get rattled.

“Some guys can do it,” Caden said. “It doesn’t bother them. It’s a mental thing, and when you find one of those [pitchers], you love to have him.”

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