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Matz, Stroman dazzle scouts

They stood two and three deep behind the backstop, directly in the line of sight of the pitchers they came to see. In unplanned but oddly in-sync choreography, they repeatedly raised their radar guns at nearly the same moments. Like highway patrolmen armed with similar equipment, these big-league scouts were looking for speeders.

They found two. The numbers don't lie. Steven Matz of Ward Melville and Marcus Stroman of Patchogue-Medford were caught speeding Thursday, early and often, on a sun-splashed afternoon at Patchogue-Medford High School. They may have gotten themselves tickets to the next level.

Matz, a 6-4 lefthander with a classic pitcher's frame, and Stroman, a solidly built 5-9 righthander who looks more like an infielder, put on a spectacular show for representatives of all 30 major-league teams, including more than 20 scouts. The two pitchers ignored the constant flurry of activity behind the catcher that could've caused lesser pitchers to become distracted.

"I loved everything about this game. I wish it could be like this every time I pitched," Stroman said.

Matz won the duel, 1-0, on a soft run in the top of the seventh that decided a hard-fought, thoroughly brilliant matchup between two kids who have been friends for more than a decade. "I gave up my first home run to Marcus when we were 8 years old," said Matz, who has a scholarship to Coastal Carolina.

"He's a sick pitcher. This was so much fun," said Stroman, who has a scholarship to Duke.

The preponderance of major-league scouts was evidence that neither might set foot on a college campus.

Despite the loss, Stroman was slightly more dominant. He struck out 14, displayed a knee-buckling curveball that perfectly complemented his heater, did not walk a batter and allowed only three hits.

Matz retired his first 12 batters, allowed only one hit, walked three and struck out 12. His curveball also was a devastating out pitch. Both tossed seven-inning complete games and both are complete pitchers.

"They both topped out at 92, 93, both showed very good pitch selection and they threw first-pitch strikes," one National League scout said. "They both raised their stock today."

Stroman, because of his height, is not considered a major-league pitching prospect, although one American League scout said, "It's a little premature to talk about a position for him. He's not the pure pitcher that Matz is per se, but he's a baseball player. He's a competitor. He's such a bulldog."

Duke plans to use him as a middle infielder, although Stroman said there has been recent talk about using him as a closer or middle reliever as well. "I love pitching, but I probably love playing the infield most of all," said Stroman, a strong-armed shortstop with a solid bat.

Matz can hit and plays first base when he isn't pitching, but his meal ticket is his arm. "Being a lefthander, with his size and that arm, it's a slam dunk he'll get some big money. He's like a diamond," an NL scout said.

In fact, there were two rare and sparkling gems on display.

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