Miller Place starting pitcher Cody McPartland has been a thorn in the side of the Eastport South Manor baseball team all season, and that trend continued in the playoffs.
Back on April 22, McPartland tossed a one-hit shutout against the Sharks, which ended up being a 12-0 victory for the Panthers. Though he was not as dominant on Monday, he still kept the ESM batters off-balance and pitched his team to a 3-2 victory in the Suffolk County Class A playoffs on the Sharks home turf.
The loss was the second of the playoffs for the Sharks in the double-elimination format, so their season is now over. Miller Place has beaten ESM three out of four times this year.
“I knew it was going to be close,” ESM head coach Matt Salmon said after the game. “I mean, Steven Arnsten has been absolutely dealing for us for the past couple of days now and we knew what Cody was. We knew he was going to keep us off-stride; we knew he was going to do a nice job and he did. It was a tight game.”
Miller Place took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning on an error by Arnsten who, after cleanly fielding a bunt, threw wide of first base. The error allowed Ethan Fox, who had led off the inning with a double, to score from second base.
The Sharks finally got to McPartland for the first time this season in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a pinch-hit, lead-off single, Andrew Karkota laid down a sacrifice bunt that the Miller Place catcher threw in the dirt while trying to hit first baseman Tyler Polycranos, allowing all runners to be safe. Kory Cassara then lined a single to right field, scoring Riley Kessler from second base with the tying run. Cassara was thrown out trying to advance to second base but Karkota was safe at third.
Miller Place then decided to intentionally walk Mat Annunziata to put runners on first and third with one out. Mike Shine stepped up and hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Karkota from third base and give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
Annunziata then stole second base, Niko Bedell was hit by a pitch and Mike Flynn reached first base on an error committed by the Miller Place shortstop to load the bases. But Mike Burkhardt popped up in foul territory to end the threat.
With Arnsten still on the mound for ESM, T.J. Dromerhouser led off the top of the seventh inning with a double to right-center field. After throwing another pitch, Arnsten felt something in his arm and had to be taken out of the game.
In two playoff games this season, Arnsten allowed three runs, two earned, and gave his team a chance to win in both starts.
“Steve’s battled for us,” Salmon said. “He said the second to last pitch out there that his arm hurt—otherwise, he wasn’t coming out of that game. He’s that kind of guy.
“If we had a game tomorrow, he’d probably ask me for the ball,” he added. “He’s a strong, fighting kid. He’s had some success for us, so we’re excited about him.”
Cassara came out from behind home plate to relieve Arnsten on the mound. On the first pitch he threw, Andrew Bailey laid down a sacrifice bunt that Cassara could not field cleanly and the runners were safe at third and first with no outs.
Vinny Bua followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Later that inning, Fox singled up the middle to drive in the eventual game-winning run.
ESM went down in order in the bottom of the seventh. McPartland pitched the complete game, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out five.
Salmon was very proud of his team and what it had accomplished this season. He said he was especially grateful for the seniors on the team who will be graduating, a group that includes Karkota, Flynn, Bedell, Pat Gallagher, Connor Brandow and Tom Mauriello.
“I think the seniors that we had really led by example,” he said. “I was proud to have them in my first year as head coach.”
Salmon added that members of his graduating class have good reason to be proud. They have won three consecutive league titles, made an appearance in the county semifinals and advanced to last season’s county final against Connetquot. They also earned a playoff win this season despite losing many experienced players to graduation last June.
“Most of those guys are going to play next year in college,” Salmon said. “The other guys look up to them. They always try and do the right thing. It was awesome having them. They mean a lot to the school and the program.”