It took only one delivery from Chris Lydon for Clarke baseball coach Tom Abruscato to determine the senior southpaw was primed for a quality start Monday afternoon.
One hundred twenty-three pitches later, Lydon completed a two-hit shutout in style with a strikeout as the Rams captured their first Nassau County title since 2013 with a 7-0 win over Division in the decisive third game of the Class A finals at SUNY-Old Westbury.
“Chris has gone through some struggles, but he’s worked hard and was amped up to take the mound today,” Abruscato said. “When I saw his breaking ball snap on that first pitch, I knew he was locked in. For him to pitch a complete-game shutout is unbelievable.”
Clarke (25-3-1) scored once in the bottom of the first, once in the second and four times in the third, including three on junior Nick Campagnuolo’s bases-loaded double, to provide Lydon with plenty of breathing room.
“My goal was just to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win,” said Lydon, who threw 52 pitches and allowed five runs in No. 2 Clarke’s series-opening victory last Friday night. “The offense got a couple of early runs and the defense made all the plays behind me,” he added. “It’s a great feeling. We’re a close-knit team on and off the field.”
Lydon battled control issues — he walked seven — but allowed no extra-base hits, and third-seeded Division (21-5) managed to get only one runner to third base. The Blue Dragons, who extended the series with a gritty 2-1 win in Game 2 Saturday night, loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first, but failed to score as Lydon recorded a flyout to right and a fielder’s choice groundout.
Clarke took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning when Campagnuolo drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on sophomore Tyler Cox’s single, stole third and scored on sophomore Matt DeStefano’s single.
Lydon, who reached base in all three plate appearances, going 2 for 2 with a walk, helped his own cause in the second with a long RBI single to right, bringing home senior Steven Lee for a 2-0 lead.
The Rams blew the game open in the third when they sent eight batters to the plate, and four of them scored — all with two outs. Division made three errors in the inning, the last of which allowed junior Pavlos Papoutsakis to score, making it 3-0. Campagnuolo followed with a double to the gap in left-center, driving in senior Derek Smith, Lydon and junior CJ Cumbo as Clarke built a 6-0 cushion.
“I was looking for a fastball and got it,” Campagnuolo said. “I didn’t think it would be anything more than a nice single, but it traveled, and everybody scored.”
Lydon stranded five runners on base over the last three innings. His 176-pitch series was similar to the workload logged by senior Brendan Turton in the semifinals against MacArthur. “We’ve been dreaming about this all year,” said Turton, who had a strong outing against Division in Game 2 but was outdueled by Jake Lombardi. “My brother [Mike] was on Clarke’s last county championship team six years ago, and I remember being in the stands watching and hoping I’d be able to do the same one day. So this is awesome.”
Turton will start this Saturday’s Long Island Class A championship game against Sayville at Old Westbury at 7 p.m.
The Rams, who won their seventh county title, rallied from four runs down to beat Division in Game 1, 13-6. Campagnuolo, Papoutsakis and senior catcher Chris Giardino knocked in two runs apiece, and junior Brian Sullivan pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“In a three-game series,” Abruscato said, “it doesn’t matter which two games you win.”