On the mound, South Side ace Andrew Misiaszek is unflappable and virtually unhittable. His expression rarely changes, whether he is striking out opponents -- he has a remarkable 93 whiffs in 44 1/3 innings this season -- or whether a teammate makes an error behind him.
"Miz is special. Nothing bothers him," South Side coach Tom Smith said. "In the classroom or on the field, he is a great leader."
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But in the dugout, Misiaszek admits he isn't quite as stoic. He was nervously squirming so much on the bench as a four-run lead dissipated in the seventh inning Monday against host Division that he could not bear to watch what turned out to be the last pitch of the game.
"It was a little too much," Misiaszek said, able to grin after the final out on a liner to short with the tying run on third in South Side's 4-3 victory over the Nassau A-II leaders.
Misiaszek, a senior lefthander who received a scholarship to Northeastern, struck out 11 in six scoreless innings, earned his fifth victory in six decisions and lowered his ERA to 0.61 as the Cyclones improved to 12-4. Division fell to 14-2. The three-game series resumes on Tuesday, but both teams will get high seeds for the county playoffs, which begin Saturday.
That is why Smith elected to remove Misiaszek, who walked one and allowed only three singles, after 81 pitches. "The great part is he wanted to stay in the game," Smith said. "But we want him to open for us in the playoffs on Saturday, plus as a player who will pitch at the next level, you want to protect his health."
"Miz" just wanted to protect a lead the Cyclones built against Division ace James Varela, who struck out eight in four innings and also was lifted with an eye toward the start of the playoffs, according to Blue Dragons coach Tom Tuttle.
The Cyclones capitalized on an outfield error and bunched three hits off Varela in a three-run second, including a clutch two-run single by Andy Pena. Designated hitter Tom Barbieri started the rally with a single, scored, and later produced what he thought was merely an insurance run with a mammoth home run over the left-centerfield fence in the fourth.
"He had thrown me a couple of curves that weren't up to par, so on the 3-2 pitch I was looking for a fastball," Barbieri said. "It definitely felt good off the barrel. Varela is a great pitcher, too, but at the time, I thought we had enough."
Barely enough, as it turned out.
Hard-throwing reliever Sal Miranda walked the first two batters in the seventh, struck out the next two, then walked the bases loaded. All three runners scored on Varela's double to left-center before Miranda got the final out.
"I tried a little bit to talk coach into letting me stay in the game. But I understood," Misiaszek said. "I just heard the ball hit the bat, and when I looked up the game was over."