BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Leyton Pulsipher gathered a chopper to the right side, fired to Matt Alifano covering second, and Alifano’s throw to first baseman Rob Copozzi completed a double play.
Just like that, Center Moriches advanced to the state Class B baseball championship game with a 5-3 win over Susquehanna Valley on Friday in a state semifinal at Broome Community College.
It was fundamentally sound defense — the kind that leads to a championship.
“There’s nothing better than watching the defense make that play,” said catcher Alec Maag, who drove in three runs as Center Moriches built a 4-0 lead in the second inning. “It’s so sweet. And to close the game on such a great defensive play, in a stressful game, makes it even sweeter.”
Defending state champion Center Moriches (25-0) will meet Schuylerville (18-7) for the state Class B title at 1 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton University. The Red Devils will send Alifano, the Suffolk League VIII MVP, to the mound.
Center Moriches starter Andres Auffant cruised into the fifth with a 4-1 lead, but two hits and a two-out throwing error allowed Susquehanna Valley (19-2) to score twice.
Red Devils closer David Falco came on with runners on first and second and slammed the door on the rally. He wound up throwing 2 1⁄3 innings of hitless relief with five strikeouts.
“His first pitch was clocked at 96 miles per hour by the college coaches behind me and I could hear them talking about it,” Maag said. “David was so dominant again today.”
Falco earned the save with a 37-pitch performance, striking out the side in the sixth inning. He didn’t reach the state’s mandatory pitch count of 40 for two days’ rest and is eligible to close the championship game.
“We want to win another state title so bad,” Falco said. “The guys have worked hard all season and it’s been different people contributing all the time. It’s been a team effort.”
Center Moriches’ Corey Stengel opened the game with a single and scored on Maag’s one-out sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
The Red Devils made it 4-0 in the second. Dylan Bryant had a run-scoring single, and with two outs and the bases loaded, Maag added a two-run single through the hole at shortstop.
Stengel walked with one out in the sixth and Alifano doubled him home for a 5-3 lead. And then it was Falco time.
“Yeah, you just know it’s over when he takes the mound,” Maag said. “Now we need one more to defend our title.”
Center Moriches 5 ..........................Susquehanna Valley 3
WP — Auffant. LP — Matthews. Save — Falco.