Center Moriches lost two of the linchpins from its 2018 state Class B baseball championship team, but it hasn’t lost a step.
The Red Devils scored early with the help of a Matt Alifano run-scoring triple and managed to hold off host Mattituck in a 3-1 Suffolk VIII victory that keeps them a perfect 14-0. The Devils’ victory, combined with its 2-1 triumph over the tough Tuckers Monday, gives them the look of a team with a shot at repeating.
“It’s fair to say this is a continuation of what we were doing last year, but you can’t ignore that we lost two of the best players we’ve ever had here in Liam Pulispher and David Franchi,” senior David Falco said. “But with many of us becoming seniors, we might be just as good as last season if not better.”
“These guys have done a good job of staying hungry after what we did last season,” Center Moriches coach Dennis Donovan said. “You have to keep your edge. Whatever way you can, you find a way to. As far as being undefeated? I am not worried about undefeated. That’s not the goal.”
Corey Stengel was hit by a pitch on the game’s first at-bat and Alifano followed with a triple over the head of leftfielder Emmet Ryan that went to the fence. Alec Maag’s sacrifice fly scored Alifano for a 2-0 edge and the Devils added a run in the second on Stengel’s RBI single to left-centerfield.
“I was able to find a pitch down the middle and put the barrel on it,” Alifano said of the triple.
That was all Center Moriches would get as Tuckers starter Tyler C. Olsen settled in and ultimately retired 11 of the last 12 he faced in a six-inning effort. Meanwhile, the Devils were constantly foiling threats by Mattituck (10-3, 9-2). The Tuckers went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, left a total of 10 men on base and scored their only run in the sixth on Connor Fox’s bases-loaded walk.
With two runners in scoring position in the fourth, Center Moriches escaped when Falco gloved a smash at third base and threw a rocket to first to nail the runner and end the inning. It was one of four strong plays in the field by Falco and his play was a very good omen for the Devils.
Falco, the stellar closer for the title team, hadn’t pitched or played the field until Tuesday because of a left ankle injury suffered during basketball season. He will pitch relief on Thursday against the Tuckers. So an unbeaten team is becoming even better right now.
“Having him jump into the mix at this time of year? It won’t hurt,” Donovan said.
“I am excited. I am really anxious,” Falco said. “I am excited to show people what I am made of.”
It would be hard to imagine improving a team with a perfect record, but that may be exactly what’s happening at Center Moriches.