Pitcher Jack Palma spurs Smithtown Christian to Class D win
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The ice bath usually reserved for the head coach was appropriately dumped on the newest member of the Smithtown Christian baseball team. That would be staff ace Jack Palma, who transferred to the school for his senior season.
Palma gave the Knights a top pitcher and a shot at a state baseball championship. Smithtown Christian gave him a foundation to grow as a player and a student. Saturday, Palma was doused by jubilant teammates after he fired a four-hitter and struck out four as Smithtown Christian defeated Coleman Catholic, 8-2, to capture the state Class D Southeast Regional at the Dowling Athletic Complex in Shirley.
The Knights (14-3) will play in the Class D state semifinals at SUNY-Broome CC in Binghamton, Saturday at 10 a.m.
"It wasn't easy at first when I transferred over here from St, Mary's," Palma said. "I didn't really know the guys but they made me feel real comfortable. It was the best move."
That synergy developed over the course of the season and resulted in Saturday's win. Palma, who had command in the zone and worked ahead of the hitters, carried a shutout into the seventh, where he wilted a bit in the 82-degree heat with 92-percent humidity to allow two hits and two unearned runs.
"I was definitely tired and just getting through," said Palma, who threw 94 pitches. "But I wanted to finish."
Senior catcher Tim Gorton was at the center of the offense. He drilled a one-out RBI single in the third inning for the 1-0 lead. He stole second and scored after two wild pitches to make it 2-0.
"I had the green light and it was a fastball down the middle," Gorton said.
Leading 2-0, the defense came up with a gem in the top of the fifth. Shortstop Ronny Linsalato stayed in front of a line drive that short-hopped him and knocked him backward. Linsalato fired to second baseman Vinny Ciaravino for the force at second and the relay to first made for a crowd-pleasing 6-4-3 double play.
"Tremendous play," Palma said.
Gorton then ignited a six-run fifth inning when he drilled a long double leading off. The Knights batted around and Gorton added an RBI single to cap the scoring for the 8-0 lead.
Gorton reached base in all four trips, going 3-for-3 with a hit by pitch. His father, head coach Craig Gorton, said he was going to miss coaching his son when he graduates and leaves to play at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
"It's been a blessing coaching both of my boys," Craig Gorton said. "It's been a great experience with them."
Gorton said it's easy to be biased about his dad as the coach.
"Of course I think he's the best coach," Tim Gorton said. "He's all about his players and teaching. I couldn't ask for anything more for a father or a coach."
Palma also flourished under Gorton's leadership.
"Jack really grew as a person with this team," Craig Gorton said. "He bought into the team attitude and he's really focused on the mound."
And he's leading them into the state semifinals.