Senior Joe Barbieri didn't pitch an inning last year for Ward Melville. Stuck behind an experienced staff, he served as the Patriots' batting-practice pitcher his entire junior year.
"That was me, the batting-practice pitcher," Barbieri said, laughing. "It was disappointing and not what I expected. But we did have a loaded pitching staff and it definitely motivated me for this year."
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Now Barbieri is no one's BP pitcher. He needed only 69 pitches to throw a one-hitter and lead Ward Melville over Patchogue-Medford, 2-0, on Monday in a Suffolk League I baseball game.
The hard-throwing Barbieri was masterful. He allowed one walk, hit one batter and struck out one, throwing 51 strikes. He induced 10 flyouts and was aided by two double plays.
Barbieri lost his no-hit bid with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning when pinch hitter Jonathan Warasila lined a single to right-centerfield.
"He was fantastic out there," said Ward Melville senior third baseman Joe Flynn, who started an around-the-horn double play in the second inning. "He's an under-the-radar guy who's so big for us. He's the full package with a ton of confidence."
Ward Melville (6-0) opened a 2-0 first-inning lead. Leadoff man Nick Vitale lined a single and scored on Flynn's triple to centerfield. Flynn scored when Dallas transfer Troy Davern lined a two-out single to center.
That was all the offense Barbieri needed. He had five 1-2-3 innings and improved to 3-0.
"He stayed low in the zone and we played great defense," Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci said. "Patchogue is a very aggressive team and the wind held up all the balls that were hit in the air."
With the exception of the three laserlike shots that Flynn hit off the outfield fence, Ward Melville did little against Patchogue-Medford starter Andrew Garcia, who shut out the Patriots in the final six innings. He scattered nine hits, walked one and struck out four.
"Flynn is crushing the ball," Petrucci said. "He's a dangerous hitter. He's even walked twice already this season with the bases loaded."
The Patriots wasted scoring opportunities in the fifth and seventh innings.
Flynn lined a one-out double into the rightfield corner on a low, outside fastball but Garcia got a pop-up and a groundout to end the fifth.
He blasted a two-out double into the leftfield corner in the seventh but again was stranded.
"I'm seeing the ball really well," said Flynn, who will play baseball at Princeton. "I'm going the other way much better and I'm much more patient. I'm taking walks instead of swinging at bad pitches."
Barbieri said the early lead stoked his confidence.
"It took the pressure off and I just pounded the zone," he said. "We beat a really good team."