You could certainly forgive Clarke’s Brendan Turton if he was distracted as he stepped onto the mound Saturday afternoon at MacArthur.
It was enough to know the season would be over with a loss, but he was also dealing with the recent death of his uncle, which caused him to be away from the team when it lost Game 1 of its best-of-three baseball semifinal Friday against MacArthur.
Turton turned in a stellar performance Saturday, striking out four and allowing three hits and one earned run in five innings as the No. 2 Rams staved off elimination and won Game 2 of its Nassau Class A baseball semifinal against the eighth-seeded Generals, 9-3. Game 3 is Monday.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Clarke coach Tom Abruscato said. “He’s done this all year. He’s a tough kid and a winner and it was an even better performance because of what he is going through.”
After a literal first inning stumble allowed Justin DeMaria to score from second on a fielder’s choice the Clarke senior didn’t give MacArthur anything else.
“I was just working with my fastball, it’s a high mound so I was able to leverage it and work down hill,” Turton said. “I was able to locate and work in and out and up and down.”
Clarke (21-2-1) got on the board quickly after Nick Campagnuolo was hit by a pitch and came around to score on a single by Matt DeStefano in the first inning.
“Facing a kid today like [MacArthur starter Chris] Roach, who’s arguably one of the most talented pitchers in the county, to get a run off him early was good, especially being down 1-0 in the series,” Abruscato said.
It was in the third inning that Clarke took charge, putting up eight runs and sending 13 batters to the plate.
“Whenever we get rolling it’s really spurred on by the bench,” Tyler Cox said. “We have 26 guys and even the guys that don’t really play play a huge role in every game we play. They can really help us get going.”
Cox went 3-for-4 in the game, driving in all four of his runs in the third inning.
CJ Cumbo also reached base twice in the inning, leading off with a single and later walking to force in a run.
“We knew we just had to come out and play to make it to Monday,” Cox said. “We just tried to play it like a normal game.”
Clarke is looking to reach its first county final since it won a Long Island championship in 2013.
“Yesterday we had a bad inning and today they had a rough one,” Abruscato said. “We just have to go out and play the game because whatever happened in these two games means nothing for Monday.”