Even in the most stressful of baseball situations, Center Moriches’ David Falco always goes back to one thought.
“Baseball is a game I’ve played my whole life,” Falco said. “For me, it’s always about having fun.”
The Red Devils junior had plenty of fun on Saturday. Falco was 2-for-3 with a single, home run, two RBIs and a run. The 6-4 right-hander also pitched the final three innings of scoreless relief as Center Moriches defeated Marlboro Central, 5-1, in the Class B Southeast Regional final at St. Joseph’s College Athletic Complex in Patchogue.
Center Moriches (21-4) advances to the state semifinals in Binghamton next Saturday. The Dukes, who won the state Class B crown in 2016, finish 20-2.
“David has been tremendous for us in relief all year,” Center Moriches coach Dennis Donovan said. “He’s so relaxed, sometimes it’s like, ‘David, this is a big game.’ ”
Falco came up big with a one-out single that scored Liam Pulsipher to give the Red Devils a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Pulsipher’s one-out double scored Matt Alifano to tie the score at 1 in the first.
David Franchi delivered one of the biggest hits of the game — a two-run single in the fifth that put the Red Devils ahead, 4-1.
Falco, who smacked a solo home run in the sixth inning, struck out six, walked three and allowed one hit in three shutout innings for the win. His toughest crisis came in the sixth when he allowed a lead-off double and a walk. A Dukes’ double steal put runners on second and third with no outs. But Falco was at his best with three straight strikeouts to end the threat.
“I had all the confidence in the world, especially with Dave on the mound,” said Pulsipher, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run. “I’ve known him since Little League and he’s tough as nails.”
Andy Auffant started for Center Moriches and allowed a run, three hits with a walk and four strikeouts before giving way to Falco in the fifth. The Red Devils, who haven’t been to the state semifinals since 1998, are riding a 13-game win streak and haven’t lost since April 18.
“This is my second time going upstate (this year),” said Pulsipher, who was a member of the Red Devils’ state champion boys soccer team. “It’s been a heck of a year for CM . . . This is unbelievable.”