The Clarke baseball team put on a first-inning hitting clinic Wednesday. For the first 23 minutes of the Nassau A-V contest, the Rams made things excruciating on host Island Trees.
There were tough drives into the stiff wind at Bulldogs Stadium, bullets down the line and hard ground balls into the holes. When it was over, Clarke had sent 13 batters to the plate, pushed seven runs across and charted a course to an 11-1 run-ruled five-inning victory.
The huge rally was more than enough for Rams lefthander Chris Lydon, who allowed only three hits. He issued three walks, struck out three and got the backing of superb, error-free defense.
“The whole game plan called for keeping the ball low and letting the defense make the plays,” Lydon said. “In the field we’re just great — they make every play.”
As its lineup has begun to click, Clarke (9-1-1, 6-1-1) has taken on the look of a top contender. The week began with the Rams, Bulldogs and Seaford in a tussle atop the division, but Clarke has had consecutive 11-1 victories over Island Trees (9-3, 5-3).
“We knew [the Bulldogs] were good and we needed to show what we’re capable of,” Lydon said. “We’re playing on another level from where we were a few weeks ago. If we keep playing like we did today we have a shot of accomplishing goals.”
Nine Clarke players had hits in the Rams’ 10-hit attack and coach Tom Abruscato said “we’ve come a ways the last couple weeks. Our at-bats today were much better.”
“We kept the line moving,” said Nick Campagnuolo, whose two-run single through the middle in the first — his second hit in the rally — made it 7-0. “We have great sticks up and down and it;s nice when everyone is contributing.”
Chris Giardino’s two-run single to left-centerfield opened the scoring. Derek Smith, Tom Appell and CJ Cumbo all had run-scoring singles in the first-inning outburst. Matt DeStefano, Jack Layburn and Pavlos Papoustakis (two RBIs) drove in runs in a three-run third inning.
Clarke has only one senior in the everyday lineup, though Abrusco said that the Rams’ success “wouldn’t be happening without our seniors. They may not play that much but they sustain the [culture].”
“You can say that we are a young team but we don’t see that as a reason not to expect a lot,” Giardino said. “We look at our whole team and think we could do great things — win a county championship and maybe more.”