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Pitching dominates RTC Grand Slam Challenge

Suffolk pitcher Matt Crohan (Riverhead) delivers a pitch

Suffolk pitcher Matt Crohan (Riverhead) delivers a pitch to the plate in the bottom of the first inning of the Grand Slam Challenge. (June 17, 2013) Photo Credit: James Escher

The real challenge in the RTC Grand Slam Challenge Monday night was finding a way to score against a parade of dominant pitchers who took turns taking the mound -- and taking care of business.

Pitching dominated the eighth annual game matching top seniors from Suffolk and Nassau, and Suffolk won, 3-1, scoring all three runs in the 10th.

The game was postponed by rain twice this month. Replacement players were added to the rosters because players who were on teams competing for a state championship earlier in the month would have been unable to attend. To accommodate the additional players, the decision was made to play 10 innings.

Suffolk MVP Matt Vogel (Patchogue-Medford) drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th with a single that scored Ryan Dollop (Bayport-Blue Point), who tied it with a single. Vogel also singled on the game's first pitch and brought the heat in the seventh, using a 95-mph fastball to fan two in a scoreless inning.

"It was truly just an honor to have played in this game,'' Vogel said.

Nassau scored in the fourth when Louis Mele (Island Trees) singled to right to drive in pinch runner David Hawley (South Side), who stole second and advanced on a groundout.

Nassau's Joe Romero (Chaminade) and Suffolk's Matt Crohan (Riverhead) were the starters. Each allowed only one baserunner in an inning. Much to the dismay of batters who often looked uncomfortable, pitching became only more impressive.

In the third, Wyatt Schmidt (Southampton) provided an early highlight by striking out the side.

Matt Rothstein (Wheatley) also struck out the side after allowing a leadoff double to Chris Gaffney (St. John the Baptist) in the eighth. Doing him one better, Nassau MVP Bryce Keller (Port Washington) fanned the side in a 1-2-3 ninth.

"This was absolutely amazing, mostly because of the pitching displayed all the way up until the last inning,'' Keller said. "It was the best of the best out there and I was glad to do my part.''

There was one walk all game. "This was the most impressive pitching performance I've seen,'' said Clarke's Tom Abruscato, who has coached the game four times. "No doubt, the best. On both sides.''

The game is played in memory of former Diamond Award winner Ryan T. Caulfield, an outstanding catcher at Bethpage and New York Tech. Caulfield, 22, died of complications from lupus in 2000. All proceeds support research to help find a cure for lupus.

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