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Baseball: Votruba’s arm, Bowes’ bat lead league champ SWR to another victory

With so much to like, the question wasn’t so much what’s not to like as it was what do you like better? Was it Gordon Votruba’s pitching arm or Liam Bowes’ bat?

Both were mighty impressive Monday when Shoreham-Wading River opened a three-game Suffolk County League VII series against visiting Babylon with a 9-0 win at Kevin Williams Memorial Field. Votruba pitched a two-hit shutout and Bowes slugged a pair of home runs.

Then again, what was one to expect? This has been a mighty impressive season for SWR, the recently crowned League VII champion. The Wildcats bumped up their record to 16-1, 15-1 in the league.

“I want to win a state championship,” Votruba said. “If we stay together, be teammates the way we are, I think we have a good chance. We stay in every game we play. We never put our heads down. We’re always in it.”

SWR, winner of four league titles in eight years and 16 overall, seems to have all the pieces: pitching, fielding and hitting. It was all on display Monday.

Votruba (3-1) looked like he had no-hit stuff and held Babylon (8-10, 8-8) without a hit through the first 3 1/3 innings before John King lined a single that knuckleballed into rightfield. Babylon’s only other hit came when Joe Hanson led off the sixth with a bloop that fell into shallow right, near the foul line and two defenders.

Votruba, who last year tossed a no-hitter against Amityville, was asked if another no-no was on his mind.

“A little bit,” he said.

Over the full seven innings, Votruba registered six strikeouts. The sophomore righthander hit a batter, but did not issue a walk. For the season, he has 40 strikeouts against 10 walks in 35 innings.

It helped that Votruba had a wide assortment of pitches to draw from: four-seamers, two-seamers, changeups, sliders and curveballs. “They don’t know what’s going on when you have that many pitches,” he said.

Votruba also stroked two doubles, one knocking in a run.

 Gordon Votruba (3-1) pitched a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Votruba is the No. 3 pitcher on the starting staff, headed by ace Billy Steele and Ben Grodski. Steele (5-0), scheduled to start the regular-season finale Thursday at home to Babylon, has not allowed an earned run in the 34 2/3 innings he has pitched this season. He has given up seven hits and 14 walks to go with 70 strikeouts and a .606 WHIP. Batters are hitting only .060 against him. (Steele is also hitting .392 with a homer and 15 RBIs).

“I expected that from him,” Bowes, a senior catcher, said of Steele. “I play summer ball with him and he’s different. He’s special, that kid.”

Bowes is also something else. In the second and third innings he let out loud grunts each time he belted a pair of two-run homers. Both came on 2-and-0 fastballs, landing well beyond the leftfield fence at a distance SWR coach Kevin Willi estimated at about 380 feet. Willi called them “big boy shots.”

“That’s my count,” said Bowes, who shot his batting average up to .561. He has five homers and 27 RBIs this season.

“Whenever I have a good count like that I’m always trying to hit a home run so I wasn’t, you know, wasn’t shocked, but it just felt good to finally catch them,” he said. “You know, sometimes you get them a little off the end or around it, but those were right on the barrel.”

SWR scored all nine runs in the first three innings. As part of SWR’s 11-hit attack, Joey Marchese had two hits, including an RBI infield single.

The Wildcats have at least four future college players in Steele (West Point), Bowes (Fordham), Marchese (SUNY/Cobleskill) and Greg Friedman (Mercy College).

“It’s a pleasure to coach this team because they respond really well,” Willi said. “They do things the right way.

“It’s dangerous when you have such a successful record, that the path, you know, is win, win, win, win. It’s the losses that sometimes teach lessons, but this team, I think, has limited the losses because they’ve done the right thing.”

And if the Wildcats keep doing the right thing, who knows how far it will take them?

Said Bowes, “I don’t want to lose again.”