Nearly two dozen Nassau County baseball coaches show up in...

Nearly two dozen Nassau County baseball coaches show up in support of suspended Clarke coach Tom Abruscato while interim coach Mike Meittinis (in red) goes over the ground rules of the field with the umpires prior to start of host Clarke's game against Division. (Apr. 5, 2010) Credit: James A. Escher

The number of intertwining story lines and escalating dramatics in yesterday's season opener between Clarke and Division could have rivaled those found in daytime television.

Before the game, approximately 25 Nassau baseball coaches came out in protest of Clarke coach Tom Abruscato's controversial four-game suspension. Then there was Division's 10-1 third-inning lead, followed by Clarke's seven-run fourth, and Ryan Sloane's lead-grabbing grand slam in the fifth.

And finally: the rally-killing decision to call the game because of darkness. That occurred in the top of the sixth, with the score 14-12 in favor of Clarke - this, with the tying runs on base for a frustrated Division, unable to top its Class A rival. Young and restless, indeed.

"In the end, the darkness got us before they did," Division coach Kevin Daniel said.

The Rams trailed 10-1 going into the bottom of the fourth before scoring seven runs, led by Connor McCarthy, who had a two-run home run and an RBI single in the inning.

Sloane's slam with one out in the fifth put Clarke up 14-10. Division came back with two runs in the sixth before the game was called with runners on first and second and nobody out.

Though baseball took center stage, it was the behind-the-curtain action that brought in some of the crowd. The game was the first of Abruscato's suspension - levied against him by the county athletic council for playing an unsanctioned team last year in Virginia. The penalty was overly harsh, coaches said, and called it retribution for Abruscato's fighting the council on ability-based grouping.

"I think it's an outrage," Bellmore coach Eric Passman said. "Tom had to take the fall for trying very hard to do the right thing."

Nassau athletics executive director Todd Heimer said that the council acted correctly and any allegations of retribution were "ridiculous."

The group, wearing blue coaches association T-shirts with their respective schools' team hats, presented themselves for the exchange of lineup cards and remained for the first few innings.

"It's a good showing," said MacArthur coach Steve Costello, who spearheaded the gathering. "Not everyone could be here, because they don't have assistants, but a lot of guys were here in spirit."

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