Here is Mike Zacchio’s story on Rye clinching its spot in the Class A state final four:
CROSS RIVER – Once the high of winning last week’s section championship wore off, Rye coach Mike Bruno realized that a storm of scrutiny was about to follow him after letting sophomore George Kirby throw 153 pitches.
Bruno was vindicated Saturday after Kirby, who was making his first start since the section title game, pitched the Garnets to a 12-0 victory over Maine-Endwell in a Class A regional championship at John Jay High School, needing just 76 pitches to go the distance.
“I took that all on myself and I’ll still take it and I’ll take the hit for it, that’s fine,” Bruno said of the criticism around him. “I probably wouldn’t do it again, but at that moment, if you were at the game, you might understand why I did it.”
Kirby was sensational Saturday, mixing a hard fastball with a nasty curveball to keep the Spartans (7-10) at bay. The righty, who improved to 10-0, allowed five hits and struck out six while issuing no walks to send the Garnets (22-4) to the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
Kirby, who was winless last season, said that he wasn’t concerned about the controversy around his pitch count from his previous outing.
“I felt fine today; it’s like I threw a normal game last week,” he said. “It doesn’t take away anything from us, what we did over the whole season.”
The Garnets broke things open in the sixth, scoring 10 runs, highlighted by a grand slam from freshman Mat Bruno, the coach’s nephew, on the 12th pitch of his at-bat.
“I was on the bench the entire game just cheering my teammates on and all of a sudden, coach comes up to me and says, ‘You’re up. Get up,’ ” Bruno said of his first career home run. “I’m thinking in my head, ‘All right, let’s get a hit and get these runs in.’ ”
Eric DeGraw, father of Garnets center fielder Tim, returned the home-run ball to Bruno’s father.
Rye will play Section 2’s Averill Park in the state semifinals at Union Endicott High School Saturday at 1 p.m. Kirby is expected to start for the Garnets.
Photo by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News