The wheels on Jake Robinson's pitching gem had given out rather abruptly. With two runs in and runners on the corners with no outs in the fifth, the joy ride had veered into oncoming traffic in hasty and alarming fashion. Nursing a 6-2 lead, Oyster Bay backstop Dan Roland put on the brakes.
"I slowed the game down," Roland said moments after the Baymen clinched their fourth straight county title with a 7-3 win over Locust Valley in Game 2 of the Class C final at Adelphi University Tuesday. "I have full confidence in Jake and his curve is the best I've ever seen."
Robinson relaxed, inducing a fielder's choice and ending the threat on a strikeout and groundout. It wasn't the first time the tandem has fed off each other - it wasn't even the first time that game.
In the top of the fifth, Roland provided support of another kind, depositing an inside fastball from Will Brennan over the leftfield fence - a three-run shot that made it 6-1.
His strategy was elegant in its simplicity.
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"I always go up there smiling," Roland said, smiling. "It's about having fun. I saw that pitch and I got a hold of it."
The Baymen have had plenty of fun of late. At 23-1, they have the best record in the county, and advance to play the Suffolk champion on Sunday, June 6, at Farmingdale State. Oyster Bay will attempt to win its third Long Island title in a row.
"We have a pretty good winning tradition," coach Jay Davis said. "We have seniors that have played four years and have been to the championships all four years."
Indeed, seasoned Oyster Bay played crisply and Locust Valley (17-7) struggled defensively, committing four errors. Still, coach Mike LoGerfo said, "the boys fought. Be prepared. We're going to make another run next year."
In his senior year, Robinson was determined to close things out well. He allowed three runs and five hits in five innings and showcased a deceptive curveball that left plenty of Falcons frustrated.
"I like hiding my pitches," Robinson said of his curveball, which is all but indistinguishable from his fastball at its release point. "Coaches teach you to see it coming out of the pitcher's hand, and I work to hide it."
And in the rare instances he loses his way? "I know I have a really good catcher," Robinson said. "We're one and two. It's been that way for a long time."