Center Moriches on Tuesday continued what is taking on the look of a relentless march to a second straight state baseball title. The host Red Devils mixed a prodigious offense that included home runs by David Falco and Rob Copozzi and the stingy pitching of Andres Auffant to beat Mattituck. 11-3, in Game 1 of the Suffolk Class B championship series.
Center Moriches (21-0) pounded out 14 hits and eight of nine in the starting lineup drove in runs. Auffant allowed five hits in a complete-game effort.
The Red Devils can win the county crown and earn a spot in the state tournament on Wednesday in Game 2 at Mattituck. The pitching matchup is Matt Alifano against Tyler C. Olsen of the Tuckers (17-7).
Asked about his team being unbeaten, Center Moriches coach Dennis Donovan replied, “I’ve heard the saying before that ‘teams just know how to win’ or ‘guys just know how to win.’ I never knew what that meant, really. I just thought it was one of those cliches until this season.
“They’ve had their bad games, maybe that they should have lost,” he added. “But it’s a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds that put the team and winning first instead of the stats. I think it’s more rare than you think, especially in the age of social media.”
The Red Devils put their mark on the game in a six-run third inning for a 6-0 lead. Alifano had a run-scoring single, Alec Maag an RBI double and Brad Sakellarides a sacrifice fly before Falco and Copozzi capped it with back-to-back home runs. Falco’s was a two-run shot that exited the field over the 368-foot mark in dead centerfield.
That, too, may still be going.
The Red Devils may be the beneficiary of the rare wake-up call that doesn’t come with a loss. In last Wednesday's semifinal round, they blew a 7-2 lead but prevailed, 8-7, over Babylon on Leyton Pulsipher’s walk-off single.
“That has dialed us back in,” Falco said. “A walk-off is fun, but it’s not the game you want to play. Our killer instinct is front-and-center again.”
Dylan Bryant and Alifano had run-scoring hits in the fourth and Auffant had a two-run double and Corey Stengel an RBI single in in the fifth for Center Moriches. Bryce Grathwohl had two hits and Emmet Ryan and Chris Nicholson drove in runs for the Tuckers.
“It’s the most-competitive team I’ve been on,” Auffant said. “That drive, the desire to win another championship, is the special thing that keeps us winning.”