Making your second varsity start against the defending league champions is no easy task, but Sleepy Hollow right-hander Mike Fortugno was up for the challenge on Wednesday at Ardsley. The sophomore rebounded from a rough first inning to put himself in position to earn the win, but that all could have changed in the bottom of the sixth.
With the tying run on second base, Fortugno came up with a huge strikeout – one of only three for the game – to help the Headless Horsemen hold on for the 4-3 win against their rival.
“I didn’t really think about him. Obviously, I knew in the back of my mind that he was there, but I just bore down, threw what I got and got him out,” Fortugno said. “I feel like I’m always able to come up with a strikeout – no matter who we’re playing.”
Fortugno’s emergence is an encouraging good sign for Sleepy, which finally has its full lineup intact. His gutsy performance was an eye-opener, and he could become a very valuable commodity.
“He’s a sophomore, but he plays like he’s a senior,” shortstop Nick Arduino said. “He’s very good. He knows how to pitch to guys who can hit the ball to the opposite field, inside, outside – he’s very good at that.”
• Fortugno got off to a rocky start, allowing four hits and two runs in the bottom of the first, including an RBI double to Dylan Resk and an RBI single to Carlos Monserrate. It certainly did not look like he was on his way to throwing a complete game. “I just settled in,” Fortugno said. “My teammates surrounded me and told me that I could do it. It’s my second start, and I just felt like I could do it.”
• Fortugno would only allow two more hits over the next six innings and no more earned runs. The key was his ability to pound the zone. His final line was: 7 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 91 pitches (62 strikes, 29 balls). “We came out swinging hot. The kid had some stuff, but we started to fall behind in the counts,” Ardsley center fielder Gabe Kardish said. “In the first inning, he really didn’t show us his curveball and he wasn’t hitting all of his spots. But after that, he started mixing it up really well. We’ve never seen him before, but he’s a really good pitcher.”
• While Fortugno started shaky and finished strong, it was kind of the opposite for Ardsley starter Matt Shear. He didn’t allow a base runner to reach in a quick first two innings, but the Horsemen started getting to him in the third. With runners on first and second with two outs, Arduino laced an RBI single up the gut to get Sleepy on the board. “I just went up there and didn’t want to do too much – just wanted to put the ball back up the middle,” he said. “I found my ball, and squared it up.”
• The Horsemen bats really started breaking out in the top of the fourth. Inmer Rosado reached base on a dropped third strike and advanced to second on a throwing error. Alec Stoll came up next and drove a booming double to the right-center field wall to score Rosado and tie it at 2-2. Later in the inning, Jason Martinez and Arduino each added two-out RBI singles, giving Sleepy a 4-2 lead. “The first hit gave me a little confidence and I started to feel it at the plate,” Arduino said. “I just came back with the same strategy – up the middle.”
• While the Horsemen didn’t necessarily knock Shear all over the yard, what really stood out to me was their ability to come up with big two outs. “We’ve had a lot of two-out hits this year, and when you get a two-out hit, that hurts the other team,” coach Ray Farrell said. “I think we just had to get the pregame jitters out of us. It’s a big game, and we knew that. If we want to win the league championship, we had to win today.”
• Sleepy wouldn’t score another run, but Ardsley made its push in the bottom of the sixth. Kardish led off with an infield second (his second of the game; any ball he hit on the ground was tough to throw him out on) and advanced to second on an error. A ground out moved him to third, and he came around to score on a passed ball to make it 4-3 with one out. This is where Fortugno really dug in. He struck out the next batter for the second out, but Resk reached safely on Sleepy’s second error of the inning. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Fortugno struck out Monserrate to end the inning. “He’s a gamer,” Farrell said. “He challenges hitters, he throws a lot of strikes with not a lot of walks, and he gets tougher and tougher as the game goes on.”
• Fortugno seems to be seizing the role of No. 2 starter for Sleepy behind ace Edwin Lopez. Stoll was expected to be the No. 2 after a strong season last year, but he’s been dealing with some arm issues. Farrell says he expects him to pitch again at some point this season, which would only add depth to this rotation. “Mike is blowing us all away,” Farrell said. “He’s exceeding my expectations. We have Alec Stoll, who hasn’t been able to throw for us this year, so Mike had to step in as a sophomore and take that No. 2 role, and he’s a bulldog out there.”
• Shear also ended up pitching a complete game, and has been the Panthers’ go-to guy this season as a junior. His pitch count was driven up because of some control issues, which caused him to labor a bit at times, but give him credit for going the distance. His final line was: 7 IP, 4 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 5 BB, 115 pitches (64 strikes, 51 balls). “That’s really uncharacteristic of him. He’s usually very good with his command,” Kardish said. “It was maybe just an off game, but he’s been great all season.”
• When I saw the Horsemen against Nanuet earlier this season, the team looked much different. They got blown out that day, which surprised me considering how many returning starters they have from last season. It turns out, they were missing a few key players, most notably catcher Peter Pena. He was back hitting cleanup today and seems to have some legitimate power. He hit some balls hard, most notably a double to the left field wall. “Pena, not only in the cleanup spot, but as a catcher, I’d be scared to run on him as an opposing team,” Farrell said. “Teams don’t run on us very often, and in the cleanup spot, he’s just a huge presence. We have three guys in front of him who get on base and have speed, and having him sitting there in the four-hole, he puts some runs on the board for us. He leads our team in RBI.”
• The win is huge for Sleepy Hollow from a league standpoint. Ardsley won the league last year, but split with the Horsemen. They’re considered the two front-runners for a league title this year, and now both stand at 2-1 in league play. Sleepy has to feel pretty good about its chances to position itself for a first-place finish with Lopez ready to go at home on Friday. “We definitely feel like we’re going to sweep them with Edwin on the mound,” Fortugno said.
• I’ll give the final word to Farrell: “As far as coming from behind, it seems like we’ve done that in most of our games this year. We let the other team get up a couple of runs on us before we strike, but we have a very talented team. The whole thing is just putting it together and minimizing mental mistakes. We know we’re going to have a few physical mistakes in a game, but if we could just play a complete game for seven innings, we feel like we can beat anybody.”
• To see the play-by-play action and full box score, click here to see how I scored the game on iScore.
Here’s what we’ve received so far tonight:
White Plains 3, Mamaroneck 2: At Mamaroneck, Kevin Nicholson forced a pop-up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to hand Mamaroneck its first league loss since 2010 against Scarsdale. Chris Medeot scattered four hits in five innings in White Plains’ first win against Mamaroneck in seven seasons. Tommy Bertram had two hits and an RBI for White Plains, while Mike Lotito and Cameron Crabbe each had RBI doubles. JC Ruggerio homered in the third to give Mamaroneck a 1-0 lead. Dating back to 2007, Mamaroneck had been 70-1-1 against league opponents.
Yonkers 4, Edgemont 2: At Edgemont, winning pitcher Kyler Bryant allowed two hits in six and two-thirds innings. He also had two RBI. Jean Mejia scored two runs and stole a base. Alex Bieber and Dylan Levine scored one run apiece for Edgemont.
Harvey 8, Forman 3: At Harvey, Corey Eisenband went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, two runs scored and two RBI. Mike Chavkin added two RBI. Jesse Zubren pitched 5 2/3 innings for the win and struck out seven.
Eastchester 6, Bronxville 1: At Eastchester, Kyle Crimmins threw a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and did not allow an earned run. Mike Milo went 2 for 2 with an RBI, two stolen bases and two runs scored.
Dobbs Ferry 6, Hastings 3: At Hastings, Neil Abbatiello pitched six innings for the win, allowing no earned runs on five hits while striking out nine. Matt Bohl went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Mike Mitaro added a double, a run scored and two RBI. John Wilt had two RBI for the Yellow Jackets.
Yonkers Montessori 5, Palisade Prep 3: At Yonkers Montessori, Joe Munoz struck out 12 and scored the go-ahead run for the Eagles. Anthony Gianfrancesco added two RBI.
Iona Prep 3, Moore Catholic 3, 11: At Moore Catholic, Ryan Doty pitched 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight. Dan Ormond went 2 for 5 with an RBI double, and Matt Henry also had two hits.
Albertus Magnus 9, Nanuet 6: At Albertus Magnus, Christian Conklin went 3 for 3 with two RBI and three runs scored. Owen Lorenz added three RBI. Andrew Schweitzer threw a complete game for the win. Cody Fitzgerald went 2 for 3 with a double, two runs scored and three RBI for the Golden Knights.
Clarkstown South 12, Suffern 5: At Suffern, the Vikings scored 10 runs in the third to put the game away early. Luke Laclair had three RBI, while John Kukura and Al Conti added two each.
Stepinac 10, Regis 5: At Stepinac, Danny Hoffer went 2 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base, a double, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI. Joe Signore stole three bases and added four RBI. James Decker went six innings and allowed two earned runs for the win.
Panas 2, Mahopac 1: At Panas, Jacob Vazquez threw a four-hitter. Tom Parish had an RBI. Kevin Kernan went six innings for the Indians, allowing six hits while striking out nine.
Rye Country Day 10, St. Luke’s 4
Irvington 1, Hen Hud 0
Carmel 11, Lourdes 9