BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - One of the most successful seasons in Smithtown Christian baseball history came to a close Saturday in a frustrating state Class D semifinal.
Appearing in their first state semifinal, according to coach Craig Gorton, the Knights had only three hits and fell to Hancock, 4-1, at MacArthur Park in a game that slipped away in the third inning.
"They put a couple of hits together in the third and we had an error so that was disappointing," Gorton said. "And we never got anything together offensively. The other pitcher was throwing hard and mixing up fastballs, curveballs and changeups and kept us off-balance."
The teams were scoreless through two innings, but Hancock struck first in the top of the third and never looked back. After the Wildcats loaded the bases with one out, Kevin Consulazio singled up the middle to give Hancock a 2-0 lead.
Smithtown Christian starter Jake DiNozzi struck out the next batter but then a throw to third hit the runner and rolled away from the base, allowing the runner to score to make it 3-0.
In the fourth, Hancock had runners on first and third with two outs and scored on an infield single that made it 4-0.
"We made a few nice plays out there but didn't make the big one when we needed it," Craig Gorton said.
Smithtown Christian got on the board in the sixth when Kyle Straker scored on Timmy Gorton's grounder that was misplayed by the second baseman. The Knights still were threatening with runners on second and third and one out, but Hancock pitcher Ryan Smith retired the next two Knights with a strikeout and a groundout to secure the 4-1 lead.
"Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other pitcher. He hit his spots and was throwing hard," Craig Gorton said. "We were capitalizing in those spots all year, just not today. We didn't have many chances today and that was the one situation where we had to come through but we didn't."
As one of the few Class D teams on Long Island, the Knights regularly reach the Southeast Regional final but this year won that game for the first time, 11-8, over Coleman Catholic, to reach the state semifinals.
In Tuesday's regional final, DiNozzi threw 105 pitches with 11 strikeouts in five innings to lead the Knights. Saturday, he returned to throw 88 pitches in six innings with six strikeouts, allowing three earned runs and six hits.
"We weren't sure if he was going to throw but he felt good," Gorton said. "It just shows a lot of character. We made sure he was 100 percent but he's got a lot of heart to come in and do the best he could."
Despite yesterday's loss, Gorton hopes the experience of advancing this far in the postseason will help the team next year, as it graduates just two seniors and returns juniors DiNozzi and Timmy Gorton, two co-captains.
"We took the next step this year and hopefully next year we'll take another one and play for a state championship," Craig Gorton said. "It's a small school and they're not all baseball players, so sometimes you have to make kids baseball players. They're a good group of kids who work extremely hard and are just a bunch of fine young men."