Clarke beats Plainedge to sweep Nassau Class A championship

Clarke senior Joe Fusco delivers a pitch during Clarke senior Joe Fusco delivers a pitch during the Class AA final against Plainedge. (May 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Joe Fusco was not going to let Clarke lose.

A year after he had a front-row seat to Plainedge's huge upset of the top-ranked Rams in the county quarterfinals it was Fusco, a senior, on the mound with a chance to send his team to the Long Island championship.

Fusco's arm -- and bat -- were key components as No. 3 Clarke (22-5) defeated No. 13 Plainedge, 10-3, to sweep the best-of-three Nassau Class A final at Farmingdale State.

Clarke moves on to face Suffolk champion Bayport-Blue Point on Tuesday at Farmingdale State.

"This senior group is special," Fusco said. "Since seventh grade we've taken a knee every day at practice and talked about going all the way, not just winning the county and Long Island but winning a state championship."

Fusco got the Clarke bats going early, driving a two-run double to deep leftfield as part of a four-run first inning and pitched a complete game, scattering eight hits and striking out seven.

"They put some pressure on him and he threw a lot more pitches than he normally does but he beared down and he battled," Clarke coach Tom Abruscato said. "The key guys got some big hits but I think everybody had some kind of a contribution."

The Rams pounded out 16 hits, scoring all 10 runs in the first four innings. It was a balanced attack with every starter collecting a hit but Jessie Russo -- who walked three times and scored two runs.

"We're not big home run guys but we'll reach gaps and certain guys can run and extend those gappers to doubles and triples," Abruscato said. "It was a nice team effort today and our guys did a really nice job working the gaps and staying up the middle."

The big hit in the second inning came from one of those "key guys" and went into the right-centerfield gap for a triple when senior John Fogarty hit a rocket to make the score 6-1.

Anthony Pensato concluded the scoring with a two-run single in the fourth for Plainedge (18-10).

"After Game 1 we left a lot of guys on base but we started to get rolling at the end of the game and kept it going today," Fogarty said. He finished 2-for-4 and had a double to go with the two-run triple.

"Me and Joe have been on this team since we were sophomores," Fogarty said. "It wasn't too easy the last two years getting knocked out -- it hurts. This feels great, there's no better feeling."

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