For Syosset, the art of closing the deal involved all of its middle men.
Pitchers Jonathan Doyle and Jason Beck were stingy. Shortstop Alex Perry and catcher Stephen Hutchingson supplied power and defense. Centerfielder Jake Mitchnick delivered three hits. The quintet combined to produce a gritty 2-1 victory over host Hicksville Monday in a Nassau AA-I baseball game that barely beat the evening downpour.
Perry belted an opposite- field home run in the third that traveled along the rightfield line before clearing the high metal fence. The blast gave the Braves (1-0) a 1-0 lead, which they expanded in the fourth on Hutchingson's triple and Mitchnick's RBI single.
"It was a 3-2 pitch, a fastball up and away and I just went with it," Perry said. "I'm usually a right-centerfield gap hitter. I didn't know it would get out. I was kind of surprised."
Hicksville (2-1) rallied in the fifth as DH Mike Reilly doubled and scored on No. 9 hitter Chris Sarni's two-out single. The Comets might've had a much bigger inning if Perry hadn't turned a stylish double play after a leadoff single, fielding a grounder, touching second and firing a strike to first.
The three-hit inning sent up a flare for Syosset coach Pat Fitzgerald, who removed his starting pitcher, the lefthander Doyle, at the start of the sixth.
"He doesn't throw hard and they had the middle of the order coming up," Fitzgerald said. "So I went to Jason, who is usually a long reliever."
Beck gave up a hit in each of the final two innings, but the righthander earned the save.
"Two scoreless innings in tough conditions was definitely a big factor," Fitzgerald said.
It was Doyle, however, who kept the game moving for Syosset. He scattered six hits in his five-inning stint, allowing one run, striking out one and walking one.
"I just tried to throw my curve for strikes," Doyle said. "My defense played great behind me."
Actually, both defenses excelled, each turning two double plays and keeping busy as the four pitchers totaled a modest six strikeouts.
"Doyle impressed me," Fitzgerald said. "He doesn't throw hard, but he had a good curve and kept the ball on the outside of the plate."
Everything else about Syosset Monday was about its strength up the middle.