Hauppauge beats Kings Park in rubber game of season-opening series
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It was 20 degrees warmer and the sky was clear and blue but the Hauppauge Eagles baseball team must have had a bout of deja vu as they fell behind Kings Park and ace Joe Guercio for the second time in six days.
Unlike Monday's loss, when the teams played through a rainstorm, the Eagles were able to claw back to defeat Guercio, 5-3, in the rubber game of a three-game series at Hauppauge Saturday morning.
The Eagles (2-1) used a three-run fifth inning to pull ahead and Sean Prahalis held Kings Park scoreless over the final two innings for the save.
A walk and an error put runners on first and second for Kings Park with two outs in the seventh but shortstop Dom Confredo made a diving play in the hole and flipped the ball to third baseman P.J. Contreras for the force out to end the game.
"A lot of teams don't practice it but we practice it," Hauppauge coach Kevin Giachetti said, "and I tell them, 'There's going to be a time during the year where we're going to have to go 6-to-5,' and it just happened there and it was just like we plan and how we draw it up."
Kings Park (1-2) scored single runs in each of the first three innings to stake Guercio to a 3-0 lead. He pitched a complete game and struck out 10, including three in the second inning on nine pitches.
"Even though we fell down early my guys felt like they could come back and win even though it was Guercio on the mound," Giachetti said. "Usually you spot a guy like that three runs and it could be over."
Contreras, a sophomore, jump started the offense for Hauppauge with a triple to lead off the third.
"He's a really good catcher but we have a senior at catcher so we're playing him at third base," Giachetti said. "We gave him an opportunity to hit the ball against a good pitcher in our last scrimmage against Connetquot and he went 3-for-4. He's just gutsy and the kids are starting to rally behind him."
Starting pitcher Nick DelRe struck out two and allowed four hits and three runs over five innings and also drove in Contreras with a sacrifice fly for Hauppauge's first run.
Nick Fanti singled later in the inning and came around to score when a high fly ball hit by Confredo dropped in for a double.
"In the beginning our bats were sleeping but toward the end we started chipping away," Confredo said. "We just stayed up and our pitchers and defense did a good job and we played better fundamentally."
Contreras scored the game-tying run in the fifth after Fanti grounded into a fielder's choice and Fanti came around with the go-ahead run on a single by first baseman Jake Merhige.
But it was a huge defensive play between one of the most experienced Hauppauge players and one of its youngest to save the game.
"We practice the backhand in the hole to go to third and get an out and it worked," Confredo said. "It was big and I knew I had to go to third and I'd have no other chance and it happened to work out."