TUCKERS 6, MONARCHS 0
The Mattituck Tuckers needed a helping hand. Fortunately for them, they had a Finger.
When his baseball team needed innings from his right pitching arm, Ryan Finger came through with not only a complete game, but a one-hit shutout on Thursday. His 6-0 win at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School wasn’t flashy, with double-digit strikeouts or anything like that, but it was just what Mattituck needed. In their season opener three days earlier against Center Moriches, three Tuckers pitchers totaled over 170 pitches.
“We really didn’t want to go into our bullpen today,” Mattituck coach Steve De Caro said. “I never dreamed in a million years that he would pitch a complete game today. I can’t tell you how important it was for our team that he did what he did today.”
Mattituck arms needed rest on Thursday, and they got them thanks to Finger. The junior had only one strikeout through six innings, finishing with three after fanning the game’s last two batters. His performance was smooth and steady.
De Caro “expected me to pitch well today, so I was a little nervous the other day, but in the back of my head I knew I was going to pitch alright,” Finger said. “My arm has been feeling good.”
The only hit Finger gave up was to the second batter he faced in the game. Owen Gilpin bounced a single past third baseman Brian Pelan in the first inning. Finger walked the next batter, Keith Schroeher, putting two runners on base with one out. But Finger escaped the danger, getting Pat Stepnoski to bounce into a fielder’s choice and Christian Lynch to ground out.
“The first inning was a little scare,” Finger said, “but once I got out of that with a runner on third, I felt like my confidence picked up and it was going to be fine.”
McGann-Mercy batters reached base only three times after the first inning, from two walks and a fielder’s choice.
Finger said he kept his pitches low and didn’t try to overthrow in the cold weather. It must have helped. He retired the side in order three times and faced four batters in each of two other innings. It also helped his cause that Mattituck (1-1 overall and in Suffolk County League VIII) played errorless defense.
“He spotted his fastball,” De Caro said. “He had a lot of movement on his fastball. His curveball looked good, too. He was throwing that for strikes, so he was keeping them on their toes.”
Before Finger stepped onto the pitcher’s mound, he enjoyed the luxury of a 6-0 lead. Mattituck batted through its order in the top of the first inning thanks to four hits (one by Finger) and two errors. The rally featured a run-scoring single by Cameron Burt and a three-run double that John Schultz roped down the left-field line. Burt and Schultz both finished with two hits apiece.
McGann-Mercy’s starting pitcher, Joe Crosser, was a bit unfortunate. Four of those runs were unearned.
Crosser did not give up a hit after the first inning. He was relieved by Lynch before the sixth.
The fact that Finger tossed a one-hitter with only three strikeouts just goes to show that strikeouts aren’t everything.
“We talk to our starting pitchers all the time: They don’t have to strike out everybody,” De Caro said. “Just keep the ball low and let the defense work.”
With the season still in its infancy, McGann-Mercy (0-2, 0-2) has already absorbed a terrible blow, having lost, at least temporarily, three of its pitchers. The team’s No. 2 pitcher, J. T. De Scalo, has had a gallbladder operation. Coach Ed Meier hopes to have him back in a week. De Scalo’s replacement, Kevin Thomas, is academically ineligible. And, to top it off, Pat Marelli was struck in the face by a line drive during batting practice a couple of weeks ago. Meier said he expects Marelli, who was having work done on his nose, to be out for two to four weeks.
“It definitely affects us,” Gilpin said. “They’re all our pitchers, good pitchers, too. We need them.”
The other issue for McGann-Mercy is hitting. The Monarchs managed only one run and five hits in its season-opening loss to Babylon.
“We should be hitting better,” Gilpin said. “I don’t know why we’re not. We’re all good hitters.”
Is the low run production a cause for concern?
“You play two baseball games and you score one run, yeah, that’s something to be concerned about, absolutely,” Meier said. He added, “You hope you go out there and score more runs than zero.”
Meanwhile, De Caro had another type of concern that he voiced before heading to the team bus. Although he was happy with how Finger pitched, De Caro said, “The only problem now is I’m going to have to shut him up now because he’s not going to stop talking for the next week.”