By RICK REMSNYDER
Senior slugger Will Logue launched a long home run and junior righty Matt Mahusky hurled a complete-game four-hitter to spark Marlboro to an important 3-1 non-league victory over Valley Central on a picture perfect day for a scholastic baseball game at Jack Kroh Field.
The win improved the Dukes’ record to 9-1 on May 25 with three games left in the regular season. The two-time defending Section 9 Class B champions appear to be in good shape to get an invitation to the postseason when the section’s seeding committee meets on June 3.
“I just want these guys to keep doing the small things right because I feel that’s where they’re going to find their success,” Marlboro coach John Morrissey said. “If it’s to put a bunt down, it’s to put a bunt down. If it’s to move runners up, that’s what their job is. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing in that respect, we’re going to have a good end to the season.”
On the other hand, Valley Central coach Bob Leonard isn’t sure if his club will qualify for the Class AA playoffs in a field that includes powerhouses Newburgh, Monroe-Woodbury and Kingston. The Vikings (7-6) had three games remaining following the loss to Marlboro.
“I think we have a pretty good shot, but it would be nice to win a couple of these down the road (prior to the Section 9 seeding meeting),” Leonard said. “We ended up 5-1 in our league and won the league. But the other side of the division is Monroe, Newburgh and Kingston and they all beat us. I think we have a chance to go in the 4-5 spot depending on what FDR (Roosevelt) does.”
In a well-played seven-inning contest that took less than two hours to complete, Logue broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning with a home run over the left field fence off Valley Central right-hander Danny Bello to put the Dukes ahead 1-0.
“That one felt good off the bat,” Logue said. “He left a fastball up in the zone and I attacked it.”
Designated hitter Tyler O’Brien kept the inning going by drawing a two-out walk. Right fielder Ryan Corcoran lined a double to left field to score O’Brien to make it 2-0. Corcoran scored to up the lead to 3-0 when VC catcher Matt McDonald threw the ball away trying to pick him off third base.
Mahusky cruised through the first four innings, allowing only a single by Andrew Bonilla in the top of the second. Bello reached on a walk in the third frame, but Mahusky ended the threat with back-to-back strikeouts of Sebastian Rockwood and Mike DiTullio.
Following Leonard’s sideline pep talk about getting some runners on base, the Vikings finally got something going in the top of the fifth.
Leadoff hitter John Scotto got on base when Mahusky hit him with a pitch. Cam Stevens then reached first when left fielder Mike Valente dropped his fly ball for an error and McDonald walked to load the bases. After pinch hitter Matt Conrad struck out, Rockwood beat out a slow roller to second for an RBI single to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Corcoran made a spectacular sliding catch in short right on DiTullio’s sinking liner for the second out and then gunned down Stevens at the plate with a perfect throw as the VC outfielder tried to tag up and score from third.
Mahusky was in command the rest of the way, stranding runners in the sixth and seventh innings. He finished strong by whiffing Bello and Rockwood to end the contest. Mahusky walked three and struck out eight to get the victory.
“Mahusky worked ahead and kept his pitch count down,” Morrissey said. “He wanted to go out for the end of the game and we were confident that he would get it done.”
Marlboro’s starting pitching goes three deep with Derek Sherman and Valente joining Mahusky in the starting rotation, Morrissey said.
“I have three guys that can really step up and fill that role,” Morrissey said. “Derek Sherman’s last outing was superb and Mike Valente has been doing a great job on the hill. And Mahusky has started to back that up.”
“I think this team has the ability to win Section 9,” Morrissey said. “I thought last year’s team was a state contender. If this year’s team can find their role and continue to fill that role, I think we can be a contender at the next level.”