Clarke has been nothing short of perfect on the baseball diamond since it suffered its first-ever three-game sweep in two decades — at the hands of Seaford —under coach Tom Abruscato in early April.
“Not to take anything away from Seaford, but that series wasn’t indicative of the team we’ve got,” Abruscato said. “We addressed our mistakes after that series and our approach at the plate is much-improved. The kids never lost confidence. They spent countless hours in the batting cage over the next three days after that Seaford series.”
Clarke, which won just two of its first six games against Conference ABC-V rivals, swept each of its last three conference opponents and closed the regular season on a 12-game winning streak. The Rams earned the No. 7 seed in the Nassau Class A playoffs, a double-elimination tournament, and opened with a 3-0 home victory over No. 10 North Shore on Monday.
Matt Boyko threw the complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts and one walk. He allowed three hits and got all the offensive support he needed in the bottom of the first when Kemal Deljannin and Vinny Trovato had back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs.
“Matt was phenomenal,” Abruscato said of Boyko. “He’s gotten better and better as the season’s unfolded.”
After losing 2-1 in a 13-inning marathon to Seaford on April 13 in the finale of a series that saw the Rams (16-3-1) produce just three runs in 27 innings, the bats came alive against Locust Valley the following week. Clarke defeated the Falcons 16-2, 17-5 and 3-1 to get the wheels moving in the right direction.
Senior EJ Cumbo hit a grand slam in the series opener to back the pitching of Boyko, who earned his second of five wins in 2017. In the middle game of the set, Cumbo, Chris Giardino and Deljannin had three hits apiece and Trovato was the winning pitcher. Giardino collected the winning hit in the finale, driving in Corey Rosenbloom, who earned the win on the mound with more than five solid innings, with a single in the sixth inning.
Clarke also swept Mineola, including a pair of one-run victories, as well as Island Trees. Cumbo’s sacrifice fly scored Teddy Vitetzakis in the seventh for the difference in a 2-1 win over Mineola on April 24. Four days later, Mike Rodriguez starred in a 7-6 victory over the Mustangs with a homer, a game-tying two-run single in the ninth inning and scoring the winning run on Trovato’s single.
Trovato blanked Island Trees, 8-0, in the middle game of the final regular-season series. He fanned 10 on May 2 and got offensive support from Rodriguez (4 RBIs) and Vitetzakis (2-run homer.) He was expected to get the nod in the second round matchup against No. 15 Manhasset, which upset second-seeded Carey on the other half of the bracket.
Clarke needs a minimum of two more wins this week to advance out of the four-team bracket and into the semifinals.