Clarke survives difficult test


Clarke’s baseball team took a big step towards a 24th conference title in 26 years by taking two of three games against contender Seaford last week, with the finale coming in dramatic fashion.

The victories gave the Rams a share of first place in the conference with Island Trees, who both entered this week’s action with 5-1 division marks, though Clarke was a half-game better in overall play at 7-2. Seaford was 6-2 and 3-0 in the conference entering the series.

“Our league is always loaded,” Rams coach Tom Abruscato said. “Once you get to the playoffs, it’s just as loaded if not more, so we always expect to be there. I think we’ve only been eliminated one time before the quarterfinals. To win the conference as many years as we have, it’s been a great run.”

Clarke extended its winning streak to five with a 5-1 home victory in the opener on April 15. Senior Nick Berasti yielded just one run on three hits while fanning 10 to improve to 2-0 and sophomore Matthew Kurz had three RBIs.

“He’s just much more consistent with his mechanics,” Abruscato said of Berasti. “He was probably up around 88 against Seaford the other day and he’s been pretty consistent up there.”

The next day, the Vikings took advantage of a Ram defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning that followed a leadoff double for a 2-1 win. After a 3-2 non-conference victory over Long Island Lutheran on April 17, Clarke was set to conclude the Seaford set last Thursday before a rainout pushed it to the following day.

The game went into the eighth inning, when senior Jaret Sarrantonio singled home sophomore James Beckworth to give Clarke a 5-4 win. Sophomore Mike Iadevaia and junior Dylan Vikara combined to toss 6⅓ innings of scoreless relief, with the latter throwing two no-hit frames with three strikeouts for his first victory.

“When you’re playing a team that’s just as good if not better in a short series and once playoff time comes and you have these three-game series as we saw against Seaford, you have to come up with timely hits,” Abruscato said.

It was Sarrantonio’s second walkoff hit of the season.

The Rams improved to 8-2 (6-1) after crushing Cold Spring Harbor 15-0 Monday morning in the opener of that three-game series. Senior third baseman Giancarlo Rengifo fell a single short of the cycle, including his second home run of the season, while driving in five.

The pitching staff has allowed just 17 runs in 10 games with three shutouts, including back-to-back blankings of Locust Valley on April 8-9. In addition to Berasti, Sarrantonio won his second game after tossing five innings of two-hit ball against Cold Spring Harbor, sophomore Richard Luke went the distance with a three-hitter against Lutheran and Beckworth kept Locust Valley scoreless with nine strikeouts over five frames on April 11.

“The pitching’s been outstanding,” Abruscato said. “We’re pretty deep.”

Vikara also has homered twice this season.