Few things can help you shake off a frustrating defeat better than a walk-off victory the following day. That it happened against crosstown powerhouse Ward Melville made it all the sweeter for the Bears.
On Monday afternoon, the baseball team lost a sloppy one to Mt. Sinai, looking like they had not yet returned from the long Easter weekend. But on Tuesday, the boys came to the diamond focused and made some huge late-inning plays to pull out a 3-2 victory against one of Long Island’s strongest programs.
In 2019, Ward Melville’s last full season, the Patriots made it to the Class AA County Championship series, losing in three games to Connetquot. The Patriots currently have two Major Leaguers in Steven Matz and Anthony Kay, who both pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Bears do not have the pedigree of their East Setauket neighbors, but they are rapidly closing the gap thanks to the talent on the team and the outstanding coaching of Dustin Mones and Noah Bakker. Tuesday was another step in the Bears’ growth as numerous players stepped up.
Jojo Franco took the mound and pitched a dominant top of the 1st, needing only eight pitches to induce a pair of right field fly outs and a strikeout. In the bottom half, the Bears had plenty of traffic thanks to walks from Tucker Genovesi and Franco and a Justin Porrino single, but the Bears made two outs on the basepaths to stymie the rally. In the top of the 2nd, Franco quickly recorded a pair of groundouts and nearly had a third before an error put a Patriot on first. The Bears thought they had the runner picked off of first, but the umpire overruled himself after a passionate entreaty from the Ward Melville first base coach. Before the next pitch, Franco threw over again and got Melville’s baserunner into a rundown before tagging him out as Franco faced the minimum through two innings. In the bottom of the 2nd, Lee-Anthony Santiago laced a single to right field and Chris Diesso worked a two-out walk to bring up Jayden Stroman. The eighth-grader slashed an opposite field single to left, plating Santiago for what appeared to be a 1-0 lead, but the umpire ruled the run did not count when Diesso was tagged out going from first to third.
In the 3rd, Franco worked a third shutout inning. The Patriots led off with a single, but Franco got the next batter looking and Diesso recorded the second out when he nabbed a steal attempt at second with a great throw. After a two-out walk, Franco dug deep and closed the inning with a strikeout. The Bears lit up the scoreboard in the 3rd when they drew three straight one-out walks thanks to Porrino, Franco, and Tyler Smith. A strikeout followed for the second out and it looked like the Patriots would get out of trouble when Santiago skied an infield pop up, but the Melville first baseman had trouble tracking it. The ball fell to earth, scoring Porrino and Franco who displayed some heady baserunning.
Franco gave the ball to Stroman to start the 4th and the eighth-grader flashed another zero on the board with a strikeout, a groundout, and a pop up. In the bottom half, Melville countered by striking out the side as the game moved to the 5th. In the top half, the first two Patriots reached on singles, but Stroman came back with a huge strikeout on a 3-2 count and then a second K after he walked the bases loaded. Another walk followed to plate Melville’s first run and Genovesi relieved Stroman. The junior yielded another walk to knot the score at 2-2, but came back with a big strikeout to limit the damage. In the bottom half, a bloop single from Porrino was all the Bears could muster. Both teams registered quick 6th innings as the taut affair moved to the 7th and final frame.
The Patriots immediately got Genovesi into some trouble when an error and a single to deep left-center put the first two batters on base. Unfazed, the Bear defense stepped up in the game’s biggest moment. Santiago, Stroman, and Sam Ribeiro DiCanio combined for a 6-4-3 double play and Stroman followed with a tough groundout going to his left as the Bears quickly erased the Patriot threat, earning a chance to win the game. In the bottom of the 7th, Stroman was again at the center of the action as he took a ball off his lower back like a champ to reach first base with no outs. Genovesi sacrifice bunted to move Stroman to second, and then the eighth-grader took third on a passed ball. That brought Porrino to the plate, who already had two hits in the game. He added a third when he cracked a shot over the left fielder’s head to send the Bears spilling out of the dugout with a 3-2 victory.
The Bears are back in action on Jeff Adams field this Saturday vs. Wrath Baseball.