John Fogarty's been coming up with the big hits all season for the Clarke baseball team and the Adelphi-bound centerfielder had two more in Game 1 of the Nassau Class A Finals against No. 13 Plainedge at Farmingdale State Monday.
Fogarty's two-run single in the bottom of the fourth and two-run, inside-the-park homer in the fifth were instrumental in the third-seeded Rams' 7-2 win over the Red Devils.
"We always feel it is us that can get it done," said Fogarty, who finished 2-for-3, with four RBIs, two runs and a hit-by-pitch. "It's what we do. We've played a lot of close games and have been in these situations before."
Kevin Lada and Matt Seelinger scored on Fogarty's RBI single to right, before Jayson Garcia scored on a passed ball to make it 3-0 Clarke (21-5) in the fourth. Peter Falgiano's two-out, two-run single plated Fogarty and Joe Fusco to cap the five-run inning, giving Seelinger plenty to work with on the mound.
"This game, we saw a lot of first-pitch fastballs," said Falgiano, who finished with two RBIs. "I was just trying to get the bat on the ball. We were right there, just couldn't get that big hit."
It all came together in the fourth for the Rams, who trailed the Red Devils 1-0, courtesy of Matt Sirakowski's suicide squeeze to score starting pitcher Anthony Pensato in the top half of the inning. After the Rams led 5-1 at the end of four, it was all Seelinger, who pitched a four-hitter, allowing two runs and two walks, while striking out 14.
"I couldn't find my fastball, but they weren't showing signs of hitting my knuckle-drop," Seelinger said. "I trusted my defense behind me, which allowed me to keep throwing strikes. I was able to tune everything out and stay focused on the game."
Seelinger's ability to quiet the Red Devils' bats gives Clarke the chance to close out the best-of-three series in Game 2 at 7 Tuesday at Farmingdale State. Game 3, if necessary, takes place at 4 p.m. Thursday at the same site.
"He struggled with his fastball, but there's no strain, or pull on the elbow with the knuckle-drop," said Clarke coach Tom Abruscato, who was complimentary of the play of Fogarty. "He did it again today and he's been doing it all year. He's played like a collegiate player because he is one. He's had an outstanding playoffs."
Abruscato would like to see some of those same, consistent clutch at-bats that came later on just a little bit earlier in the game. For Red Devils coach Colin Fratrik, the difference in this one was not scoring enough runs in the fourth, while not holding the Rams' lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the inning.
"With the bases loaded, we should have gotten more in that inning, and not keeping it 3-1 was the difference. It changed the game," said Fratrik, who was already looking ahead to Game 2. "Get ahead of batters. I expect a good start out of [Tom] Read tomorrow."