A dominant pitching staff carried East Meadow to 18 victories this spring, however, the Jets were unable to solve Massapequa in last week’s Nassau Class AA baseball semifinals.
The second-seeded Chiefs rallied from four runs down in the best-of-three series opener last Friday and won 5-4 on a 10th-inning sacrifice fly, then opened a big lead early the next morning and punched their ticket to the county finals with an 8-4 victory. Top-seeded Port Washington eliminated No. 4 Oceanside in the other semifinal series in three games.
“It was a fun ride and we’re disappointed it’s over,” East Meadow coach John Marciante said. “The extra-inning game took a lot out of us. It was deflating. We built a nice lead but they had all day to chip away. Against a team of Massapequa’s caliber, there’s a very small margin for error.”
East Meadow’s starting rotation of seniors Charlie Cucchiara and Matt Fried and junior Sean Kennedy pitched lights-out all season until the Chiefs managed to put up crooked numbers. Each of them recorded six wins. The Jets entered the playoffs riding a seven-game Conference AA-II win streak that saw the staff allow a total of seven runs.
“I can’t say enough about our pitching,” Marciante said. “Those guys really carried us all year. Their numbers are unbelievable. Our team earned run average was 1.11.”
Cucchiara, a likely Diamond Award finalist for a second straight season, blanked Hicksville 3-0 in the opening game of the quarterfinals with 14 strikeouts and went seven innings with 13 Ks in the opening game of the semis. He allowed just five earned runs in 2019, finishing with a 0.66 ERA with 94 strikeouts and six walks in 53 innings. “I’d be shocked if he wasn’t a finalist for the Diamond,” Marciante said. “Charlie is a surgeon out there. He can throw any of four pitches at any time in the count. He’s got great accuracy.”
Fried, who like Cucchiara played second base on non-pitching days, tossed a pair of no-hitters this spring and won six of eight decisions. He fanned 56 in 48 innings and had a 1.88 ERA. “Matt has a devastating knuckle drop that hitters have trouble putting in play,” Marciante said of Fried, who blanked Hicksville in the quarterfinal clincher, 5-0. “He probably has the hardest fastball on our staff, but you can’t sit on it.”
Kennedy, who patrolled center field when he wasn’t on the mound, had six wins, no losses and a pair of saves during the regular season. He had a 0.93 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 45 innings. He also homered twice in the playoffs, including a three-run blast in the top of the first in the series opener at Massapequa. “Sean’s an old-school type who has strong two- and four-seam fastballs,” Marciante said.
Junior Dylan Pohl was East Meadow’s workhorse behind the plate and did a tremendous job, Marciante noted, while senior right fielder Tyler Patterson led the Jets in runs with 20 and batted .320.