Flawless defense, pitch efficiency and the big hit were the right ingredients for a winning playoff opener for the Connetquot baseball team.
Junior Joe Savino struck out five in a two-hitter as Connetquot beat Newfield, 3-0, in the first round of the Suffolk Class AA playoffs in Selden.
No. 9 Connetquot will host No. 17 Bay Shore at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Bay Shore upended top-seeded Smithtown East, 7-4. No. 8 Newfield will play at Smithtown East at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Savino improved to 5-1 with a masterful 73-pitch outing, walking one and inducing 13 groundouts. Newfield got only one runner to third base as he fired his third shutout of the season.
“I felt great in the pen in my warmup,” Savino said. “And that was the best defensive effort of the season.”
He mixed a nasty slider with an 88-mph fastball and a changeup to keep Newfield off balance and relied on his infield.
“It’s easy when he pitches,” said Ciaran McGuinness, who had six assists at third base. “He throws strikes and we supply the defense.”
Connetquot scored twice in the first inning. After Derek Yalon beat out an infield single and McGuinness singled, Matt Brown-Eiring launched an 0-and-2 pitch to deep leftfield for what looked like a three-run home run. But when the ball was touched on a neighboring field about 450 feet from home plate, the umpires ruled fan interference. The runners were returned to second and third and Brown settled for an RBI double. A wild pitch then made it 2-0.
“They have an open field with no fence and the ball was hit a country mile,” Connetquot coach Matt Buderman said. “Unfortunately, someone touched the ball out there and it was ruled a ground-rule double.”
Connetquot (14-7) added to its lead against starter Bobby Vath in the second as Alex Ungar’s single to centerfield made it 3-0.
Vath settled in during the final five innings and was overpowering at times, scattering nine hits, walking one and striking out nine. He topped out at 90 mph in the fifth when he struck out two.
“The difference was our defense,” Savino said. “We made every play look easy. And some were over the top, especially the double play that ended the sixth inning.”
Sophomore shortstop Ungar, who had five assists, preserved the shutout when he made a spectacular diving catch of a line drive headed up the middle. He sprung to his feet and fired to third for the inning-ending double play.
“I got a good read off the bat and laid out for it,” said Ungar, who had two hits and was intentionally walked. “We put it all together today for a great team win.”