At this point, no one should be too surprised by Jake Halloran and what he can do.
After all, the Shoreham-Wading River senior pitcher has turned in some extraordinary performances this season. He registered 14 strikeouts in a game against Babylon. In another game, also against Babylon, he tossed an 11-strikeout no-hitter, the first of his career.
And then there was what he did in his first career playoff pitching start Wednesday.
Halloran, looking comfortable and confident, fired a career-high 16 strikeouts and fell one out shy of a complete game in a tight 2-0 Suffolk County Conference V semifinal victory over Bayport-Blue Point at Kevin Williams Memorial Field in Shoreham.
In a game in which runs were at a premium, Halloran’s work on the mound was just the shot in the arm SWR needed.
“It’s kind of what I expect [from Halloran] every time,” SWR third baseman Bill Steele said. “I mean, [against] Babylon he threw a no-hitter. Before that he had 14 strikeouts, so it’s kind of normal for him by now.”
Halloran gave up three hits and two walks before pitch-count restrictions (he threw 126 pitches) forced Joey Dwyer to replace him for a one-out save. Halloran received hearty applause from the home fans and was greeted with pats on the back and high-fives as he reached the dugout.
“I was amped up,” said Halloran (6-0), who lowered his ERA to 1.23. “I’ve been ready to go ever since I heard that we were the second seed and we were at home. I was ready for anybody that we played.”
In Wednesday’s other semifinal, League V champion and No. 1 seed Mount Sinai shut out Mattituck, 8-0. SWR (16-3) will play at Mount Sinai (17-2) in Friday’s final. The teams split their two regular-season games against each other.
Halloran, a Hofstra University commit with 81 Ks in 44 innings, struck out the side in the second and third innings, giving the righthander six straight strikeouts.
“I felt great,” he said. “All my stuff was working. I was able to throw my breaking stuff for a strike, spot up my fastball.”
What makes Halloran tough to bat against?
“It’s the spin on his fastball,” Steele said. “It just rises and it’s hard to lay off it.”
A bit of a funky delivery can also cause batters trouble picking up the ball. That may account for six of his strikeouts coming on called third strikes. Nine Phantoms struck out at least once, four twice and one three times.
Halloran avoided numerous walks and focused on staying ahead in counts.
“His batting average against is like .130 or something like that on the season,” SWR coach Kevin Willi said, “so that’s what we’ve been trying to tell him, and all our pitchers, to throw strikes because with the talent he has, I think that’s what you got to do.”
Bayport pitcher Luke Schartner (3-2) went a full six innings, scattering seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk. A solid outing, but one that was overshadowed by all of Halloran’s Ks.
Even the best of pitchers need a run or more to win, and SWR gave Halloran a sliver of support in the second. Christian Niski socked a stand-up double and Jacob Bacenet placed a single to centerfield for a 1-0 lead.
Kyle Engmann’s leadoff triple in the fifth, followed later by Steele’s RBI single (his second hit of the day), made it 2-0.
“That’s all we need with Jake on the mound,” said Steele. He added: “We’re just a bunch of athletes. We like to grind our at-bats. You know, we don’t have those guys hitting 10 home runs a year, so we really play good as a team, making plays behind our pitchers.”
SWR’s defense was solid. The Wildcats’ sole error came on a wild pickoff attempt by Halloran.
Bayport (16-4) was held to one hit through five innings, a one-out single Schartner slapped through the middle in the fourth. Liam Stemmler chopped a hit through the infield in the sixth.
With Halloran’s pitch count rising, Charlie Aurandt ripped a lined single to lead off the seventh. Then Halloran recorded strikeouts Nos. 15 and 16 before making his exit.
The blond-haired Halloran was smiling and in good spirits afterward. For good reason, of course.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I gave my team a chance to win, and there’s nothing better than that.”