Championship teams often require championship thinking. Those who plan on playing in late May are usually better equipped to do so when the time comes. Case is point — the Center Moriches baseball squad.
Coach Rob Dyer said he is very careful not to let his pitchers rack up high pitch counts early in the season, when the weather is cold — better to save the balls and strikes for when it matters the most. Dyer needed a fresh arm last week and he had one in Liam Pulsipher.
On only two days rest, Pulsipher put together six solid innings and helped carry Center Moriches to the Suffolk Class B championship with a 3-2 victory over Babylon Saturday afternoon at Center Moriches High School. Center Moriches (19-4) will face Wheatley in the Class B regional semifinals on Thursday at 5 p.m. at SUNY-Old Westbury.
Pulsipher, who threw 41 pitches in Center Moriches’ semifinal victory over Mattituck on Wednesday, allowed two runs and three hits with six strikeouts against Babylon. He allowed a run in the first and second innings, but found his two-seam fastball in the third and was unhittable the rest of the way.
“I was a little sore, but those are just some things that you have to overcome, especially when it’s a championship game and a lot is expected out of you,” said Pulsipher, the son of Bill, a former Met and six-year major-leaguer. “As the game went on, I loosened up a bit. I really got back to relying on my mechanics to help me throw the ball where I needed to. Pitching, the majority of the time, is all in the mechanics, especially when you get tired.”
Center Moriches matched Babylon’s scoring efforts early, with both teams notching a run apiece in the first two innings. The Red Devils’ Robert Copozzi hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second to tie it at 2.
Corey Stengel’s RBI single through the left side of the infield broke the tie in the bottom of the fourth and proved to be all the scoring Pulsipher and closer David Falco would need to bring home the championship.
Falco notched two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh, including one on a curveball to end the game.
After a 6-0 win over Center Moriches on Friday forced the winner-take-all de facto championship game Saturday, Babylon knew that beating the top seed in the double-elimination tournament would be a tall order.
When Falco entered the game, that order got even taller.
“When you see that type of pitching, it’s difficult because you don’t see that all year. [Falco’s] one of the elite pitchers in all of Suffolk County,” Babylon coach Vic Manzella said.
A scrappy team all season, Babylon (18-6) ran out of luck at the end, but that did nothing to diminish what they were able to do this spring.
“We had the heart,” Manzella said. “We might have not been the most talented team, on paper, but we found ways to win all year . . . I couldn’t be more proud of my team. Obviously, we want to win a championship, but to take Center Moriches to the wire like that was a good thing. It was a good season for us.”