A couple of Bucks ran into early trouble Monday. Only one cashed in.
Dennis Buckstein delivered a run-scoring single off Matt Buckshaw to highlight a three-run first inning and went on to outpitch and outlast his mound opponent as host Sachem North defeated Connetquot, 10-2, in Suffolk Division II.
"That first inning was key. Second and third for both teams. We get out of it with no runs; then we get three runs. That was huge," Sachem North coach Tom Gambino said.
Connetquot (10-3) put Buckstein in immediate trouble when leadoff batter Mark Wagenstein struck out but reached first on a passed ball and Aaron Gagliano followed with a double into right-center. David Brehm looped a fly ball to short rightfield that was caught by a hard-charging Rob Sciarrotta. Wangenstein tried to score from third but was gunned down by Sciarrotta. Brandon Morse ended the threat by bouncing out to third.
Sachem North (14-2) tested Buckshaw quickly when Stefan Foster (three stolen bases, three runs) and Sciarrotta walked, then executed a one-out double steal. Buckshaw could not pull the same escape act Buckstein did as Nick Morena (2-for-4) delivered an RBI single to right and Buckstein followed with a first-pitch rope to left. Tommy Strazza (3-for-3, two RBIs) grounded another RBI single to right for a 3-0 advantage that Buckstein made sure would stand up.
He wasn't overpowering, with only four strikeouts, but he got stronger and produced a complete-game six-hitter. "My fastball was working and I know if I throw my game, I can get anyone out," Buckstein said.
The Thunderbirds pulled to within 4-2 in the third on RBI singles by Brehm and Morse, but the Flaming Arrows broke the game open with three unearned runs in the third that ended Buckshaw's afternoon. Buckstein retired 11 of 12 batters before faltering a bit in the seventh.
The Thunderbirds loaded the bases with none out on a single by Jeffrey Sarra, a walk and an error, prompting Gambino to visit the mound. Buckstein, however wanted no part of any exit strategy. "I love pitching and I love finishing what I start," he said.
"Buck'' stopped it right there, retiring the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters to give the Arrows the opener of a three-game series that likely will decide first place in the league. "I started messing around with off-speed pitches in the seventh," he said. "I should've just rode it out with my fastball."