During the regular season, there was almost nothing to separate the fourth-seeded Senerchia Post 74 and fifth-seeded Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 American Legion teams in their three meetings. Each team won once, while the third game ended in a 6-6 tie.
Tuesday, in the opening game for both sides in the eight-team, double-elimination portion of the postseason, Senerchia finally created some separation.
Lots of it.
Behind a complete-game, four-hit effort from Mike King on the mound and an offense that racked up nine hits, Senerchia routed Gershkoff 10-0 in a game that was stopped after just 6.5 innings due to the mercy rule.
“They’re a good team,” Senerchia manager Chris Sheehan said. “I’m surprised we 10-run ruled them. But it’s huge for our team.”
Rain poured down from start to finish – including a delay of nearly 45 minutes following the fourth inning – but the conditions seemed to have a greater affect on Gershkoff than on Senerchia.
After both teams were held scoreless through the first three, King cruised through the top of the fourth inning with the rain starting to pick up.
As the rain continued to fall in the bottom half, Gershkoff starter Joe Nicolace still seemed in control. He struck out Rich Bacon to open the frame before giving up a single to P.J. Murray. A fly ball to right by King went for the second out of the inning.
That’s when the trouble started. Nick Boland stepped in and roped a double to left-center field that was just out of the reach of sliding center fielder John Razzino, plating Murray for the game’s first run.
Gian Martellini followed that with a double of his own, scoring Boland to make the score 2-0.
Nicolace never threw another strike.
He walked Lou Umberto on four pitches before walking Sam Boulanger on four more to load the bases.
Nicolace’s next pitch, to leadoff man Rob Henry, was also a ball and Gershkoff manager Dave Schiappa elected to make a change.
“We told our guys – take the strike,” Sheehan said. “Once he really started struggling, we talked about making him come to you. The pressure’s on him, especially with the bases loaded. They did a good job being patient and seeing pitches. They got his pitch count up there and got him out of the game.”
Gershkoff brought in left-hander Taylor Pacific, but he did little to stop the bleeding. He threw only four pitches to Henry, eventually walking him to force in Senerchia’s third run. Then, on an 0-2 pitch, he hit Ed Markowski to bring in another run. A four-pitch walk to Bacon made the score 5-0.
Pacific retired Murray on a groundout to escape the inning at that point, but the damage had been done. Immediately after the inning, the umpires signaled for the delay and a tarp was brought onto the field.
“Fourth inning, the pitchers were slipping and sliding,” Schiappa said. “We certainly got a disadvantage of more rain in the bottom of the inning, but what are you going to do? That hurt us there.”
When the game resumed, Senerchia didn’t miss a beat.
King worked around a two-out single in the fifth to retire the side, and Senerchia added to its lead in the bottom half.
Boland reached on a one-out error, and Martellini walked. A single by Boulanger and another Gershkoff error scored Boland, making it 6-0.
Two batters later, a line drive to center by Markowski that bounced out of a charging Razzino’s glove plated two more runs, and suddenly it was 8-0.
“We had that big inning,” Sheehan said. “These games, it’s momentum. They’re all about momentum.”
Eight runs was more than enough for King. He breezed through the sixth, striking out two and retiring the side on just 10 pitches.
When Senerchia scored twice more in the sixth – the first on a Martellini single and the second on a single by Boulanger – King needed just three outs in the top of the seventh to shut the door.
He surrendered a leadoff infield single to Josmar Ventura, but then struck out Nicolace, retired Bob D’Arezzo on a groundball and struck out Tyler Collins to end the game.
King’s final line read seven innings, no runs, four hits, nine strikeouts and no walks.
“He threw awesome,” Sheehan said. “That was the best start he’s had all year. That’s a really good team and he dominated them. For him to do that was huge.”
Boland and Martellini led the way offensively for Senerchia, as they had two hits apiece. Ventura had two of the four hits for Gershkoff.
Gershkoff is now one win from elimination, and was scheduled to take on R&R Construction on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time.
Senerchia was scheduled to be in action on Wednesday as well, against Hurd Auto, but those results were also unavailable.
The playoffs run through Saturday.