Baldwin’s Steph Strategakos was insulted.
After Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK intentionally walked Fred Lucas — who hit two hard doubles earlier in the game — with a runner on second and the score tied in the sixth inning, Strategakos was determined to make them pay.
He did exactly that, blasting a two-run double to right-centerfield to drive in pinch runner Tommy Airey and Lucas to give visiting Baldwin a two-run lead in an 8-3 victory in a Nassau AA-II baseball game Monday. It was Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK’s second conference loss this season.
“I knew right when I was going up I was hitting the ball far and that’s exactly what I did,” Strategakos said. “I got up there and was like ‘You know what? They shouldn’t have pitched to me.’ ”
Lucas, although upset he didn’t have the opportunity to provide the go-ahead hit, knew the Bruins would be in good shape in the inning.
“I took it as a sign of respect because I guess they didn’t want to pitch to me,” he said. “But my boy Steph was up after me. I knew he’d hit me around.”
Baldwin (5-11) added two more runs in the sixth inning on Reed Hoskins’ two-run single to drive in Strategakos and Allan Drew.
“This is their best performance of the year,” said coach Frank Esposito after Baldwin totaled 10 hits. “Bar none.”
Sophomore Mike Ahearn — who has been thrown into the rotation after the Bruins’ three starting pitchers suffered injuries according to Esposito — tossed 6 2⁄3 strong innings in the win. He was removed with one out remaining after reaching the 105 pitch-count limit.
“He did a great job for us,” Esposito said. “He was calm. He threw his pitches. I wish I could have gotten him that last batter, but the pitch count’s the pitch count.”
“Mike’s a stud,” Lucas said, reaching over to give Ahearn a high-five. “He’s a big-man now.”
The performance also provided Ahearn a confidence boost in his new role as one of the team’s starting pitchers.
“It’s good because we’re going to be going into the playoffs,” Ahearn said, “so I really needed a game like this to really bring me up.”
Trailing 3-1 in the fifth inning, Plainview Old-Bethpage JFK (14-2) scored on Matt Butigian’s sacrifice fly, and two batters later Nick Franco singled to knock in Zach Stromberg to tie it at 3.
Strategakos finished 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs, including driving in his brother, John, in the first inning. Anderson Moreno added two hits and came in relief for the final out of the game, and Fred Lucas went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks and three runs scored.
“I felt great. The ball felt like it was flying off my bat,” Lucas said. “I’ve been hitting a lot of chest at the gym, power baby,” he added, drawing a laugh.