Bethpage’s Pat Dalton didn’t really need his team to score nine runs in the top of the first inning of a win-or-go-home playoff game Thursday, but he wasn’t going to decline their genorosity, either.
Nine runs sure was fine, but one would have worked too. Dalton pitched a one-hit shutout and struck out 13 in top-seeded Bethpage’s 10-0, six-inning victory over host and second-seeded Plainedge in Game 2 of the best-of-3 Nassau League IV Championship Series.
The series is tied at 1 and will return to Bethpage 4:30 p.m. Friday for the deciding game.
"Before the game, the nerves were obviously there," Dalton said. "But, when your team puts a nine-spot up in the first inning, that’s every pitcher’s dream…It was a lot less pressure on the mound and our team was rolling."
It started fast – as most nine-run first innings do. Dalton walked to lead off the game, went to second on a single from Coner Burns, and came home on Phil D’Aguanno’s three-run home run to right field.
"I was just looking for an outside pitch to take the other way, and that’s exactly what I did," D’Aguanno said of the swing that put his team ahead 3-0.
Bethpage took a 5-0 lead on a two-RBI double down the third-base line by Nick Schimmel; a 7-0 lead on a two-RBI double off the left field wall by Chris Downes; and a 9-0 lead on a two-RBI single by Burns. Bethpage (18-2) sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning.
D’Aguanno tripled and scored on an RBI single by Zach Schnabel in the sixth inning, assuring that a seventh would not be played.
"I knew we needed one more run to save Pat’s arm so we could run-rule them and not pitch anybody in the seventh," D’Aguanno said. "I knew I had to get on some way, I saw that pitch (an inside fastball) and ran all around."
Dalton thwarted thoughts of a thriller early, striking out six in the first two innings and tossing a no-hitter through 4 1/3 innings.
"I was feeling my fastball, hitting my spots. But, my curveball was dropping for a strike today, so that worked out well and (Downes) had a great day calling (pitches)," Dalton said.
Now, the scene shifts back to Bethpage, the site of Wednesday’s 8-2 Plainedge win in the opening game of the series, for an old-fashioned winner-take-all championship game.
"The mindset is just to keep it rolling at our place," Dalton said.