It was social media day for the baseball players in Babylon and Mattituck. The teams exchanged well wishes throughout the day in anticipation of Monday’s matchup between Suffolk League VIII contenders.
“I know the schools have the utmost respect for one another,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said. “It was all classy stuff. And the game lived up to the hype.”
Victor Proferes lifted a walk-off sacrifice fly with none out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning to drive in Jon Dwyer as Mattituck edged Babylon, 4-3, to open a three-game series. Babylon (9-1) saw its nine-game winning streak end.
“We have to tighten it up on defense,” shortstop Kenneth Gordon said. “We let this one slip away.”
Babylon coach Victor Manzella was looking to move on from a bad loss. “We made too many mistakes and it’ll be a long bus ride home,” he said. “We have to clean it up and come out and play our game to win the series.”
Babylon took a 2-0 lead in the third. Gordon and Sean Flynn singled, and with one out moved to second and third on a passed ball. Shaun Kaminski fouled away three 3-and-2 pitches before lining a two-run single into rightfield.
Mattituck (6-1) scored an unearned run in the fourth. Proferes reached on an error, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Matt Heffernan single’s to make it 2-1. Mattituck tied it in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Joe Tardif drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a groundout, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
“This is what we do this year, we manufacture runs,” DeCaro said. “We produce runs by the bunt or steal and call those Mattituck innings.”
The Panthers threatened to take the lead in the sixth. Brandon Beierle and Anthony Vano hit consecutive singles and Hunter Chiacchere dropped a sacrifice bunt to move them into scoring position. Chris Botto flied to leftfield deep enough to score Beierle, but Joe Graeb had other ideas. He made a perfect throw to Bryce Grathwohl, who wheeled and fired to catcher Mike Onufrak for the inning-ending double play.
“Joe hit me in the right spot,’’ Grathwohl said, “and Mike put on a great tag to get the runner.”
The Tuckers grabbed a 3-2 lead in the sixth. With two outs, Heffernan singled and scored when No. 9 hitter Graeb doubled to the fence in left-center.
“Joe said it might have been the farthest ball he’s hit in his life,” Tardif said, laughing. “He may have had the game of his life.”
Babylon did not go quietly. With one out in the seventh, Gordon singled for his third hit, and Cole Middleton drove a run-scoring double to the leftfield fence to tie it at 3.
“We were resilient and we battled,” Tardif said. “That’s what state champs should do.”