Tyler Juliano showed no signs of nerves on the mound and certainly didn't buckle under pressure. If the Manhasset lefthander did, could you blame him?
Juliano had pitched just two innings of relief all season before he was given the start in a deciding Game 3 of the Nassau Class AA baseball quarterfinals Saturday. Juliano breezed through the first four innings, allowing just one hit before tiring in the fifth, but he got the job done.
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Juliano pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed two hits, three runs, four walks and struck out two to get the win for host Manhasset in a 5-3 victory over No. 6 Bethpage. No. 5 Manhasset (15-8-1) will host No. 8 Island Trees in Game 1 of the best-of-three semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
"It gave me a lot of confidence that they gave me the ball," said Juliano, who found out he was starting Friday. "I never thought this would happen last week. It was a little surprising, but you deal with it. I tried not to think about it. I didn't really feel pressure. My fastball and changeup were working well. I was going to pitch until I got tired. I got a little tired in the fifth and my mechanics started changing."
He allowed three walks and a hit in the fifth. Juliano has played in the field, but hasn't pitched much because of an elbow injury.
"We took a gamble," Manhasset coach Brian Corbo said. "He's a lefty and they have six lefties in their lineup. Over the summer, he showed guts in every tournament we had against good teams all over the country. We knew he wouldn't be rattled by the atmosphere. We talked as coaches and had a vision. We went with it. After the last game, he came up to me and said he wanted the ball."
Ryan Lennon, who started Game 1 Wednesday, relieved Juliano in the fifth and allowed a run-scoring single to cut the lead to 5-3 and hit a batter to load the bases before getting a fly ball to end the inning. He allowed one hit over the next two innings to get the save.
"[Juliano] was better than anyone could ask for," Lennon said. "I had no idea what to expect. We were all pleasantly surprised."
Leadoff hitter Lukas Pracher set the tone with a long at-bat in the bottom of the first, fouling off several pitches before drawing a walk and stealing second and third base. On a grounder to third, he broke for home and was caught in a rundown but got back to third safely. A walk to Juliano loaded the bases and Charles Mack walked to force in a run for a 1-0 lead.
"It really sets the tone," Pracher said. "It shows we're coming. The pitcher gets a little rattled. My job is to work the count and get on."
Ryan Murray hit a two-out, two-run single in the first to give Manhasset a 3-0 lead. Dan Connolly had an RBI single and Pracher scored on an error in the fourth to make it 5-0.
Manhasset has won 10 of its last 11 games. "Juliano showed up big," Corbo said. "The gamble paid off."