Since the beginning of the season, Eastport South Manor baseball coach Matt Salmon has preached to his team that pitching and defense wins games, and it was no more evident than in the three-game set with Miller Place this past week, as the Sharks lost two of three to move to 9-3 in League VI play.
The Sharks opened and closed the series with road losses, 12-0 on April 22 and 3-2 on April 25. ESM sandwiched a 5-0 victory in the middle at home on April 24.
This week, the Sharks were slated to face Rocky Point, which stands at 8-4 in league play, and heading into that series, ESM needed just one more win to secure a return trip to the Suffolk County Class A postseason.
In the series opener with Miller Place, the Sharks committed eight errors while the Panthers played nearly flawless baseball behind pitcher Cody McPartland, who gave up just one hit and struck out seven.
“Their pitcher was outstanding that day and we made all sorts of errors,” Salmon said.
The defense cleaned up its act for game two, committing not a single error behind winning pitcher Pat Gallagher, who tossed six and a third innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out three.
After two and a half innings of scoreless ball, the Sharks scored what would turn out to be the only run they would need that day with one out in the bottom of the third, on, fittingly enough, a Miller Place error.
Shark Chris Goncalves led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Riley Kessler. Goncalves then scored when the Miller Place second baseman misplayed Andrew Karkota’s grounder.
The home team added some insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Flynn walked and Mat Annunziata and Mike Shine followed with singles to load the bases. Niko Bedell was hit by a pitch to bring in a run and Mike Burkhardt drove in a pair with a single. The offense was unable to capitalize further, loading the bases with no outs, but failing to score any more runs. The Sharks tacked on one more run down the stretch for a 5-0 final.
In the rubber game of the set, Miller Place won in walk-off fashion, drawing a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh for the 3-2 victory. The base runner who scored the winning run reached on an error.
ESM got its first run of the day in its first trip to the plate on a Shine sac fly that scored Karkota, who led off the game with a single. The Sharks scored their second in the fourth on a solo homer from Annunziata.
Miller Place tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth before scoring the game-winner in the seventh.
“It’s errors that do us in,” Salmon said. “In that third game, we made one error and they scored on it. In the other two losses this season, it was the same thing. We had six errors against Sayville and eight in the first game against Miller Place.”
He continued, “I’ve been saying the same thing since the beginning, when we throw strikes and don’t make errors, we’ll be ok. We have to focus on throwing strikes and playing defense because when that happens, our offense will score enough runs to win.”
ON THE SCHEDULE: Wednesday, 5/1, at Rocky Point, 4 p.m.; Thursday, 5/2, vs. Rocky Point, 4 p.m.; Monday, 5/6, at Harborfields, 4 p.m.