Plainview JFK's Shane Lovisi pitches in the first inning against...

Plainview JFK's Shane Lovisi pitches in the first inning against Herricks. (Apr. 11, 2011) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

Around fifth grade, Plainview's Shane Lovisi gave up trying to be exactly like everyone else.

Whereas Little League pitchers the nation over were trying to learn to bear down on hitters with what they'd hoped was that intimidating, though typical, overhand delivery, Lovisi embraced what nature had decided for him.

"I've always had trouble throwing over the top," he said. "I just wanted to be different. Everyone else was over the top. Might as well change it up a little bit. It works."

The sidearmer proved as much Monday, allowing six hits and one earned run over seven innings, as the visiting Hawks defeated a baffled Herricks, 8-1, in Conference AAII. It was both teams' league opener.

The big blow came off the bat of Stephen Stafford, who sent a Jeff Kim inside fastball deep over the leftfield wall for a three-run shot and a 5-0 fifth-inning lead.

"That's what's been happening," Stafford said. "Late in the game, we'll come alive and we'll get these huge hits like today."

Indeed, starting late and finishing strong is becoming something of a tradition for Plainview, coach Justin Szwejkowski said, calling the offense, "slow at times, good at times . . . it [takes] us a while."

The game remained scoreless until the top of the third, when Stafford looped a misplayed blooper to left for an RBI double. Up 1-0 in the fifth, Plainview erupted for four runs -- kicked off by Brandon Stein's RBI grounder up the middle and capped by Stafford's bomb.

The Hawks piled on three more runs in the sixth, though only one was earned, as Herricks committed two errors.

Stafford finished 2-for-3, with four RBIs and a run, and Stein was 3-for-3, with two RBIs, two stolen bases and three runs.

Meanwhile, Lovisi, a senior, relied on a steady diet of sliders and four-seam fastballs to nip and tuck his way to a gem of a game. He didn't allow a clean hit until Johnny Mahon's line drive single to left in the fifth.

Lovisi struck out two and lost the shutout on Tyler Cruz's one-out fielder's choice in the bottom of the seventh.

As for his team's propensity for late-game heroics, Stafford said it didn't bother him in the least.

"We always pick it up toward the end," he said. "I don't worry about that . . . I don't see it as pressure."

A little bit different, that point of view, but it works.