By MIKE SMITH
Any loss in a title game is a hard one to take, but Haldane’s 7-3 win over Tuckahoe on May 31 was an especially tough pill to swallow for Tiger fans, as a lack of offensive production coupled with some questionable officiating combined to end a promising season on a sour note.
After securing the top seed in Class C, Tuckahoe–which has been solid at the plate all year–managed just four hits against Haldane’s staff on Saturday, an uncharacteristic performance that might speak to the drawbacks of the 12-day layoff Tuckahoe endured after the end of the regular season. Despite the Tigers’ ability to come back from an early two-run deficit to hold a 3-2 lead in the seventh, head coach John D’Arco felt his squad simply wasn’t having the type of productive at-bats he saw from them all season long.
“I think we are generally an aggressive, hard-hitting lineup,” D’Arco said. “But [against Haldane] we had a lot of lazy fly balls and only got four hits, one of them coming on a bunt.”
Despite their woes at the plate, the Tigers had a lead heading into the last inning before the Blue Devils tied it up with their third run.
In the bottom half of the inning, leadoff hitter Mike Arborn led off with a walk. A bunt by Chris Corrado seemed to put the Tigers in a good spot to end it–with nobody out, two runners on and No. 3 hitter Justin Sachinelli at the plate. But umpires ruled Corrado made an attempt to take second and he was tagged out, prompting the Blue Devils to walk Tuckahoe’s Justin Sachinelli.
Tuckahoe couldn’t put a run across and the Blue Devils exploded for four runs in the eighth to shore up a Class C title.
“I think that call took the wind out of our sails,” D’Arco said. “I don’t see how you make that call in that spot, but the biggest thing for me is that the umpires never got together to make sure they got the call right.”
It wasn’t the only inning-killing call that went against Tuckahoe, D’Arco said, as a botched foul ball call in the sixth inning also helped snuff out a potential rally.
“The main thing, even in the Major Leagues, is that they make sure they get the call right,” D’Arco said. “But Haldane made the most of those opportunities, and I don’t want to take anything away from their win.”
Tuckahoe will graduate the majority of its starters in a few weeks and, although the Tigers will return players like Corrado, catcher Robert Kiernan and pitcher Austin Pope, D’Arco knows he will have a hard time replacing the heart of the lineup.
“We are going to take a big hit,” he said. “I thought this was the year.”
But despite the disappointing end to the season, D’Arco was effusive in his praise of Tuckahoe’s players. The Tigers’ strong regular season saw them top much bigger teams and play bigger schools like Class A Eastchester down to the wire. Even in the face of adversity, D’Arco said, the players never lost their heads.
“I’m so proud of the way the guys played this year, and I’m proud of the way they handled this last game,” he said. “They didn’t accept the loss, but they played hard and really handled the loss like men.”