By Mitch Silver
When the season started, Rye Neck Baseball Head Coach Joe Carlucci didn’t know what to make of his 2021 Panthers. “We’re young, and without a 2020 season thanks to Covid-19, and a lot of our guys are playing varsity ball for the first time.”
Young, yes, but also talented. They proved that when they came back from a 4-1 deficit against Westlake May 17, beating them 8-6. It was the Panthers’ second win over the Wildcats; they beat them 5-3 two days earlier on the road.
Ben D’Amico took the mound for the home team and was in immediate trouble. The first inning saw a combination of walks, wild pitches, passed balls, base hits, an error, and a stolen base accounting for three runs before D’Amico was able to get out the eighth and ninth hitters.
The Hornidge Road side got one back in the bottom of the first when Max Saltus singled sharply and stole second. His brother Alex hit a two-foot dribbler in front of the plate and wound up on first when the catcher’s throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, Max taking third. He came in on D’Amico’s sacrifice fly to left.
D’Amico was in trouble again in the second, when a sinking liner fell in front of Max Saltus in center for a double. A grounder and a sacrifice put runners on second and third before a wild pitch allowed the fourth run to score. D’Amico would get out of the jam by striking out the next two Wildcats looking.
The home team evened things up in the bottom of the second. Michael Cohen smashed a grounder past short and moved up on a wild pitch. Jack Edwards walked, and both runners advanced on another wild pitch. Three runs scored when Luke Murphy slugged a double to left and Max Saltus dumped a short double to right field.
D’Amico was back in hot water when he hit the ninth-place batter, who promptly stole second and took third on a wild throw. A walk put runners on first and third before D’Amico got the third out on a swinging strike. Mike Cohen got another hit in the bottom of the third, but Edwards couldn’t bring him home.
Coach Carlucci made a pitching change to start the fourth, bringing on Max Saltus from centerfield. He gave up a couple of walks, but got away unscathed when he induced an unassisted groundout to Edwards at first.
The Panthers pulled in front in the bottom of the fourth when second baseman Evan Janowitz rapped a sharp single to right. Murphy’s bunt was thrown away and Janowitz scored when the throw to get him at third sailed high. After a strikeout, Max Saltus drove Murphy in with a double to left. After yet another wild pitch, Alex Saltus made it 7-4 with a sacrifice fly to right.
In the top of the fifth, a fly to center and sharp single past third led Coach Carlucci to bring on Ryan Abbey, a first-year pitcher. He only faced three batters, giving up Westlake’s fifth run on a single and a couple of walks. Sam Dalsimer came on to strike out the next two batters.
The Panthers got their final run in the fifth when Edwards and Janowitz got two-out singles, with Edwards taking third. When Janowitz stole second, the throw trying to get him allowed Edwards to score.
Dalsimer withstood a bad-hop single to get out of the sixth with no damage. In the bottom of the sixth, Max Saltus got his third hit, a single to center, but was doubled off first when his brother hit a hot liner there.
The top of the seventh saw Westlake cut the margin with two hits, a fly out to center, and an RBI single. But Sam buckled down to get a pop out to Edwards in foul territory before a line drive to center ended the game.
Afterwards, Coach Carlucci said, “These kids can do some magical things. Coming back from 4-1 down early in the game shows me what they’re made of.”