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WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. – Max Bruckner threw 3 2/3 innings of shutout baseball in relief during the Section 1 Class A championship for Harrison. It was just two days after he threw a complete game shutout in the semifinals.
Bruckner entered the game in the seventh inning with runners on the corners before getting two of his six strikeouts. Bruckner’s masterful pitching performance allowed the Huskies to pull off the 3-2 victory in the tenth inning with a bases loaded walk-off walk to Alex Beckett.
“It feels like I started this game, I don’t know how many innings I even threw,” Beckett said. “I just went out and threw and I felt great.”
Beckett reached base in five of his six at-bats despite going 0-for-3 on the day, but his third and final walk was the biggest. The cleanup-hitting catcher took four straight balls from Byram Hills reliever Andrew Slosberg to walk in Tyler Hart for the game-winning run. Hart doubled with two outs to start the rally. He was 3-for-5 on the day.
“I’ve always thought of moments like that and how I wanted to be the guy,” Beckett said. “It just so happened that their guy made it easy for me.”
After Hart’s double and a passed ball, Jake Zuckman drew a walk from Joe Summa to put runners on the corners with two outs. Byram Hills brought in Andrew Slosberg who pitched Byram Hills to victory two days prior. Shang-Li Polera battled to a full count and drew a walk to load the bases for Beckett.
Both teams threatened seemingly in every inning but the big hit couldn’t come for either squad. The Bobcats left 13 men on base and Harrison left 15 men on base.
“We had a guy on second base three, four, five times I don’t even know,” Harrison coach Marco DiRuocco said. “We just couldn’t get that hit, but the guys never gave up and left it all out there.”
Harrison tied the game in the third inning on a sacrifice fly from Bruckner, but Byram Hills starter Jack Hatheway was impressive throughout. He tossed six innings giving up just one earned run and scattering five hits while striking out four. He walked five.
The Bobcats took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on an RBI-double from Alex Varhagen and an RBI-single from Hatheway, but Polera gunned a potential third run down at the plate. Polera made one of the best plays of the day in the fifth inning with a Willie Mays-style catch in deep centerfield with his back to the infield. The Huskies’ Jack McCarthy stopped a Byram Hills rally in the sixth with a nifty double play at third base.
“It was up and down, up and down all day long,” DiRuocco said. “We believed that we would get it done though.”
Bruckner’s performance on the mound kept Harrison alive, however. The Harrison ace struck out six batters and only allowed two hits on incredibly short rest. It was his third victory in four playoff games for Harrison and gave the Huskies their first section title since 2001.
“Max is the best. He doesn’t it whenever he gets the ball and he was ready today,” Beckett said. “He kept saying, ‘I’m good, I’m good’ and he just kept on going.”
Harrison gets a bye in the state tournament to the state regional final. The Huskies will face the winner of Section 9 and Section 4 on Tuesday.
Contact John Malone on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone