What Tyler Cox thought was a walk instead turned into a trot.
The Clarke sophomore had to regain his composure after he took a 3-and-1 pitch for a strike, which he felt was ball four. After a few seconds, Cox returned to the batter’s box and stared the opposing pitcher down one more time.
“The 3-1 pitch, I didn’t think was a strike,” Cox said. “But it gave me another chance to hit a good ball. It was weird, but you have to reset. Be ready for the next pitch.”
He was. Cox sent that next pitch over the right-centerfield fence, giving Clarke a seven-run lead in the fifth inning of its 12-2 victory over Manhasset (13-8) in the winner’s bracket of the Nassau A baseball playoffs.
No. 2 Clarke (19-1-1) advances to what is essentially the Nassau A quarterfinals, facing the winner of No. 7 North Shore/No. 10 Manhasset Monday. With a win Monday, Clarke advances to the Nassau A semifinals. With a loss, the teams play again in a winner-take-all matchup Tuesday.
The Rams scored in five of their six turns at-bat, highlighted by a five-run second inning that gave them a 6-0 lead. Pavlos Papoutsakis, CJ Cumbo and Cox each had RBI doubles and scored in the second inning. Nick Campagnuolo added an RBI single and scored and Brian Sullivan scored a run and drew a bases loaded walk in Clarke’s early scoring.
“That’s always key because Manhasset came in off a big upset win . . . they’re rolling,” Cox said. “So once we come out to a quick start, it kind of deflates them.”
Papoutsakis, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and two doubles, delivered a three-run shot in what was the final at-bat of the game, giving Clarke a 12-2 run differential victory in the sixth inning.
“I got all of that ball,” Papoutsakis said. “I didn’t go up thinking ‘Home run ends the game here,’ but I just stuck to my approach and that’s what happened.”
Cox also closed the game for Clarke, relieving Chris Lydon after 4 2/3 innings. Cox tosses 1 1/3 shutout innings with two strikeouts.
“He’s very talented,” coach Tom Abruscato said. “We’ve gotten calls from Power Five schools already, a few actually came during the season.”
And although Clarke put itself in strong position with two victories, Abruscato knows a trip to the semifinals is far from guaranteed.
“You definitely want that,” Abruscato said. “But whoever we face that comes out of the loser’s bracket, we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”