Joe Tardif has wheels and can deal.
The Mattituck sophomore manufactured a lead with his aggressive baserunning in the fifth inning of Friday's game against Suffolk League VIII rival Center Moriches. (That would be "wheels.")
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Then Tardif came in to pitch with the lead gone, none out and the go-ahead run at second in the seventh and quashed the threat. He went on to keep Center Moriches off the board for two more innings. (Those would be the "deals.")
Tardif was dominant and, most of all, gave the Tuckers (6-1, 5-1) the time they needed. Mattituck scratched out a run in the bottom of the ninth to win a marathon pitching duel, 3-2.
With one out in the ninth, Ben Knowles came off the bench for only his second at-bat of the season and grounded to third to drive in James Nish, who scored the winning run on a fairly close play at the plate.
"This is the biggest at-bat of the year, and the biggest game so far, too," Knowles said. "All I thought was get the ball in play and hit it somewhere hard."
With one out, Nish singled to right and advanced to third on an infield error. Though the infield was in on Knowles, "I was just going," Nish said. "It was line drive, stop. Ground ball, go." He slid into home a second before the tag.
"This was really big," he said. "Center Moriches is our biggest competitor and it's big, especially after nine innings."
And especially with ace Patrick Bryant on the mound for the Red Devils (5-3, 4-2).
Bryant, recipient of a second-inning run, allowed only two hits in the first four innings and cruised until Will Gildersleeve singled with one out in the fifth and scored on Tardif's single. Tardif advanced to second on the throw, stole third and scored when the attempt to nail him went wide, giving Mattituck a 2-1 lead.
Through six innings, Mattituck's Marcus Perivolaris scattered seven hits, allowed one earned run and struck out six. He allowed a leadoff double in the seventh, though, and the tying run scored on an error.
That set the stage for Tardif again. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, he caught a bunt on the fly and turned it into a double play. Tardif then overcame an infield error and induced a groundout to end the inning.
"I think I work more on adrenaline when I pitch," he said. "And I like to play [aggressively]. I like stealing bases. It's fun and I like causing a ruckus for the other team."