In baseball, one pitch can make a huge difference.
Just ask Sean Mulhall.
The Smithtown West senior was one strike away from his third strikeout of the day, his second with two outs and a runner in scoring position in a scoreless game. But instead of going home feeling he let his team down, Mulhall left Connetquot as the man with the game-winning hit.
After working a full count in the sixth inning, Mulhall poked an outside fastball to right field. John Schmidt, who pinch-ran for Mike Palazzo, scored from second, and Mulhall’s RBI single stood as the difference in Smithtown West’s 1-0 non-league win on Thursday.
“I especially felt like I needed to get the job done,” Mulhall said. “Awesome feeling. I’ve been struggling a bit lately, so great to get the hit and help the team win.”
Nick Trabacchi helped as well. Without his efficient day on the mound, Mulhall’s single could have been moot. Trabacchi, who said he is signed to play at UMBC next year, threw up zeroes for 5 ⅓ innings. He did not allow a baserunner until Ciaran McGinnis singled to right-center with one out in the sixth.
After the single, Smithtown West coach Al Nucci pulled Trabacchi with the 1-0 lead despite his pitch count sitting at 50. The Bulls (9-4, 8-4 Suffolk III) have a crucial series with first-place Half Hollow Hills East (10-2, 10-2) next week, and Nucci said he wanted to avoid overusing Trabacchi.
“He wanted to stay in, but he understands it’s about winning league games and moving on,” Nucci said “If he had a perfect game or no-hitter I would have left him in, but once he gave up that hit it made my decision pretty easy.”
After Trabacchi exited with McGinnis on first, reliever Anthony Amato threw a curveball in the dirt. Mike Falco, who entered as a substitute in the bottom of the third, blocked the ball. At first, he had trouble locating it. That convinced McGinnis to attempt to take second base, but Falco recovered and threw a dart to shortstop Erick Reuter, who laid a tag in time.
“(Falco) came in, worked hard behind the plate,” Trabacchi said. “He made the throw when he had to, and no balls got by him. He helped me out, got me a couple calls here and there. It was a lot of focus out of him and you’ve got to respect that.”
Trabacchi was focused, too. He struck out four, pitching to contact to plow through Connetquot’s lineup. But one pitch took away his chance at his first perfect game.
“It is on the bucket list now,” Trabacchi said. “Next start we’ll get back after it.”