Manorville, NY – With a win on Monday afternoon the Eastport-South Manor Sharks would seal up the Suffolk League V championship. However, Kings Park was not ready to crown them.
The Kingsmen handed Eastport their second loss of the season, behind a stellar pitching performance from their ace Joe Guercio, 3-1, on Monday afternoon.
The junior pitcher allowed one earned run on five hits while striking out five in the complete game effort. While offensively, Kings Park used small-ball in the form of back-to-back suicide squeezes in the first inning by Jack Garick and Ray Ambrosio to plate the first two runs of the game.
“They’re tough,” Guercio said. “I’m just trying to throw strikes and let my defense make plays, because I have a great team behind me.”
After the Sharks cut the lead to one in the bottom half of the first inning on an RBI groundout by Dalton McCarthy, Guercio reeled off a streak of retiring 10 consecutive batters. The junior mixed pitches and location amassing four outs via strikeout, but also induced five ground balls outs.
Coming to the forefront defensively was the play from the middle infielders for Kings Park, shortstop Matt Capobianco and second baseman Joe LaCascia.
“They’re great, all year they’ve been making great plays,” Guercio says. “If there is a ball hit up the middle, I don’t even have to look, I know the play is made.”
Not to be overshadowed was the equally puzzling effect that Sharks started Logan Frati had on Kings Park batters. Frati who only allowed one earned run (two unearned) on the afternoon gave up a stingy six hits in his complete game while striking out six along the way.
Four of the six hits came in the second inning when Kings Park was able to extend their lead to 3-1. Joe Lynn, Capobianco, Brad Biscay (RBI single), and John Picciano had four consecutive singles, but Capobianco was erased at the plate by a strong throw from right fielder Dalton McCarthy to hold the damage to only one run.
The star of the day, however, was Guercio, and he knew when it was time to bear down and make key pitches to get himself out of trouble.
In the fifth inning, Eastport’s Sean Doyle and Ryan Melvin each singled to put the tying runs on the base path with two outs. Next batter up was Andrew Karkota who had tripled off Guercio in the first inning, but the junior showed why he is not only one of the best pitchers in Suffolk County, but Long Island as well, coming up with a timely strikeout to retire the side and escape trouble.
“I was just trying to mix around a little…the ball started to move a lot, and I was having success. The team behind me was playing great, so I just had all the confidence in the world.”
The win kept the hopes of Kings Park (15-3) catching Eastport (16-2) for the League V title alive. With two more games remaining in the series, the Kingsmen will continue to rely on big pitching performances such as Guercio’s, stellar defense, and timely hitting to keep the dream going.
“If we stay focused, and we play the way we did today, we’ve got a great shot,” Guercio said. “You have to go in there believing that you’ve got it. So I would say that we have a great shot.”
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