In his first start of the season, Pearl River’s Michael Vinci went six-plus innings and earned the win as the Pirates beat Tappan Zee 5-3 Friday night in the annual Billy Kayser-Chris Bello Memorial game at Veterans Memorial Field in Orangeburg.
Vinci gave up a run in the first inning and then shut down the Dutchmen (6-6) until the seventh, when they scored two runs, which were credited to Vinci although they scored after he was taken out of the game.
“I thought I did a good job controlling my pitches, staying in the strike zone, controlling my pitches, staying low and away from hitters,” Vinci said. “Kids were working counts. They’re good hitters, but I managed to keep trucking it all through the game.”
During one stretch, from the end of the third to one batter into the sixth, Vinci retired eight straight batters. He gave up three runs, just two of those earned, on three hits while walking four and striking out two in six-plus innings.
Pearl River Coach Bruce Miller said the Pirates (6-5) haven't needed to go past their top two starters much this season. He had been scheduled to start April 21 at home against Albertus Magnus, but ended up missing the game with a minor injury.
“Mike has been slated as our number three starter right now, and he’ll see a couple more games, especially since we’ve got a couple weeks left and nine games to go,” Miller said. “He might see two, possibly even three starts.”
Tappan Zee started the scoring in the top of the first when Eric Casey belted a double deep to right center to score Liam Russell. Pearl River wasted little time tying up the game, as Rich Masley led off the bottom of the first with a triple and scored two batters later on a Conor Madigan groundout to short.
The Pirates took the lead for good in the bottom of the third after a walk to Pat Burke and double by Masley put runners on second and third with none out. Jake Tedesco ripped a ball down the third base line into left field to score both runners. The Pirates once again had runners on second and third with no outs that inning after Madigan singled Tedesco to third and stole second. Tappan Zee started Michael Woulfe bounced back to get the next two batters, but Brendan Ryan blooped a two-out single to center to score both runners and put Pearl River up by four at 5-1.
Vinci mostly cruised through the middle innings, allowing just three base runners between the first and seventh. Tappan Zee put its first two batters of the seventh on base thanks to an error and a single. Vinci was taken out for Mike McKee, who struck out the first batter he faced. Russell bunted for a single to load the bases, and Mike McGivney drew a walk to bring in one. The next batter, Casey, also walked after McKee fell behind 3-0 and worked the count full but then losing him.
“We got ourselves in a position where we were a hit away from getting back,” Tappan Zee Coach Mark Stanford said. “You’re down four runs going into the last inning, that’s really all you can ask for, so it was nice to see us get back to that spot. It’s been an unfortunate pattern lately, one hit too short.”
McKee left the bases loaded by striking out the next batter and getting the final hitter of the game to pop up to short.
“He battled through and got us out of the last inning,” Miller said.
Friday’s game was the second annual Billy Kayser-Chris Bello Memorial game. Pearl River used to host a four-team tournament in honor of Kayser, but after the schedule was cut by four games they couldn’t fit it in. They still wanted to remember Kayser, a junior at Pearl River High School who died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident April 3, 2003. Bello was a Tappan Zee High School graduate who died in a car accident eight years ago.
Vinci even said he felt some early-game jitters because of the importance of the game. He added that it was an honor to represent the Kayser family.
“Winning this game was very important for us, Pearl River, Mrs. Kayser, everybody here,” Tedesco said.