By Bill Landon
The Eagles know that if Joe Grillo has the ball, they’re in good hands.
The starting pitcher tossed seven strikeouts over six innings, not allowing a run on five hits, and walked three in the Rocky Point baseball team’s 5-2 win over visiting Kings Park April 23.
The senior put in work on both sides of the ball. He also went 1-for-2 with an RBI and two walks to help the Eagles remain atop the League VI leaderboard. Rocky Point sits at 8-2, while Kings Park drops to 8-5 after the first of a three-game series.
“Joe just had good stuff — he was pitching [for] contact, his pitch count was down,” Rocky Point head coach Andrew Aschettino said. “We certainly didn’t play our best baseball game today, which makes the win that much more satisfying. We’re capable of playing a more complete game. We struggled to get the blow to put the game out of reach.”
Rocky Point peppered the scoreboard across the first four innings to take a 4-0 lead into the top of the fifth, with almost everyone in the lineup contributing to the score. Grillo got on base with a walk to start things off in the first, and was brought home on a single by senior third baseman Mike Gunning. Grillo hit an RBI-single before stealing second with two outs in the bottom of the second, with sophomore short stop Dillon Cassidy on third, and after senior center fielder Ryan Callahan drew a walk to load the bases, Gunning was also walked to bring home Cassidy for a 3-0 lead. The final out was made to strand the rest of Rocky Point’s runners. After a scoreless third, junior catcher Alexander Bonacci knocked a double that drove in Callahan after he stole second for a 4-0 cushion.
Though Kings Park junior starting pitcher John Dougherty struggled early, Grillo got into some trouble of his own after allowing a single and a walk. Kings Park senior Rich Kim, who hit the single, stole third after classmate Brett Harmon’s walk to put runners at the corners, and junior Andrew Bianco brought them home with a shot deep to right field to cut the lead in half, 4-2.
In the top of the sixth, the Kingsmen once again had runners on the corners with one out, but Grillo was able to force a pair of routine infield grounders to end the inning.
Junior left fielder Trey Miller hit an RBI-single that brought home Gunning after he gunned his way to third following his double to give the game its final score. the Eagles ended the game on a double play in the top of the seventh.
“Trey [Miller] coming in and getting some ground balls helped shut the door,” Aschettino said. “And we were able to close it out on our second chance at a double play, so to end it the way we did was huge.”
Grillo said even when Kings Park made it a two-run game, and despite having to pitch his way out of trouble twice, he never thought his game was in jeopardy.
“I had faith in my fielders at all times, and my arm felt good today — I felt confident the whole time,” he said. “[But we have to work on] our situational at-bats, we have to do a lot more to make better contact and if we continue to have sound pitching we’ll be there.”
Rocky Point travels to Kings Park April 25 for game two, which has a 4 p.m. start. The final game of the series is slated for 4 p.m. back on the Eales’ turf April 26.