The previous six innings offered no indication of what was to come in the bottom of the seventh for Rye on Wednesday. The reigning Section 1 Class A champs didn't just fail to muster much at the plate against Eastchester ace Greg Satriale. The Garnets looked totally overmatched in attempting to do so.
The lone unbeaten team left in the Tri-State area — yes, there isn’t one team left in Metropolitan area with an unblemished record — did on Wednesday’s what we’ve come accustomed to over the past 14 months.
Rye flipped the script, found a way to push two runs across the plate and put another notch on the greatest start to a season in school history.
“Our kids just try to find a way,” Rye coach Mike Bruno. “They have so much confidence and we’ve been playing really well. (Satriale) is a great pitcher and he was basically unhittable. But we found a way.”
Rye junior Sam Lubeck legged out an infield single to get the wheels turning on a dramatic finish at Disbrow Park on Wednesday. Ryan Ciardello later tied the game with an RBI single and Keith Secon won it with a sac-fly as the Garnets shocked Eastchester 2-1 in the first of two league showdowns.
Two days later, Rye won a 7-5 decision at Eastchester, which the Garnets followed with a 4-1 win over Nyack on Saturday afternoon.
There are a couple hundred baseball-playing schools across in the MSG Varsity landscape, spanning the Hudson Valley, Fairfield County in Connecticut, all of New York City and Long Island and the top half of New Jersey.
And only Rye, the No. 14 ranked team in the latest MSG Varsity Tri-State poll, still has a 0 on the right side of its record.
“There’s no pressure at all,” said Bruno, who guided the program to the Class A state title game last Spring. “These kids are loving it. They’re embracing it. I’ve been saying that these are all firsts for Rye baseball. Last year was the first time in 30 years that Rye won a title and we don’t know if any team has ever started (16-0). These kids love it.”
The lack of pressure was personified on Wednesday.
Neither DeGraw or Satriale deserved to lose in the highly-anticipated showdown. DeGraw went seven innings, striking out 11 and allowing an unearned run. Eastchester went up 1-0 in the sixth when Satriale reached on a dropped third straight, stole second, went to third on a fielders choice and scored on a sac-fly.
Facing a Rye lineup averaging over 9 runs per game. Satriale was masterful. A day after belting a walk-off three-run homer to beat Nyack, the prized junior right-hander didn't allow a baserunner until DeGraw walked to lead off the fourth. Rye's only hit before the seventh was a Mat Bruno single in the fifth. Bruno also walked in the seventh and scored the winning run.
But Rye’s magic delivered in the seventh with an unexpected rally.
“You always have to have confidence in the boys,” DeGraw said. “No matter what when you’re always optimistic with this lineup, 1 through 9. It doesn’t matter who we have up at the plate.”
DeGraw, who has committed to play at Yale, was an All-Section player as a freshman but hadn’t pitched on varsity until this season. He’s been brilliant thus far, posting a 4-0 record in as many starts and a 0.00 ERA while striking out 32 batters in 25 2/3 innings.
There are two other 4-0 pitchers on the staff, including ace George Kirby, the MVP of last year’s Section 1 tournament. He has a 1.53 ERA and has fanned 47 in 32 innings while Keith Secon is 4-0 with a 0.91 ERA.
The emergence of DeGraw as a viable No. 2 pitcher has turned Rye from a team that could repeat in Class A to a clear-cut favorite.
“He’s been fantastic,” Bruno said. “And he showed (Wednesday) he can pitch with anyone.”
DeGraw will go down as one of the program’s most accomplished hitters and all-around athletes. In football, he’s Section 1’s all-time leading receiver, the first to top 1,000 yards receiving in a season, which he did twice and helped the program to a Class A crown last fall.
As a centerfielder and leadoff man, DeGraw is batting .447 with 30 runs scored and 28 stolen bases this season. In 87 career games, he has 126 hits, 115 runs and a staggering 113 stolen bases in 125 attempts.
DeGraw is one of five players in this year’s Rye lineup batting over .400, led by junior catcher Chase Pratt and junior infielder Ryan Ciardiello, who are both at .465. Pratt leads in RBI with 25, just ahead of sophomore Mat Bruno at 20.
Rye has outscored its opponents by a 145-33 margin, has a team ERA of 1.45 and an OBP of .455.
Perhaps most amazing is about Rye’s success is that DeGraw, Lubeck and Secon are the only three seniors in the lineup.
“We really do play one game at a time,” DeGraw said. “We know we have some tough games coming up here at the end. What better of a time to have those games than at the end of the season to get us ready?”
Rye’s biggest hurdles to an undefeated season lay ahead in the next six days. They have two matchups with Byram Hills, which is widely regarded as the top contender in Class A. Those guys are Tuesday at Rye and Thursday at Byram.
And the season wraps up for the Garnets on Saturday in the Ricky Lombardo Tournament at Ketcham. First up for Rye is a red hot Clarkstown South team and either reigning Class AA Ketcham or Beacon later in the afternoon.
Regardless of how the next week plays out for Rye, Bruno doesn’t expect anything in his players’ psyche to change.
“I’d personally rather take a loss sooner or later in the regular season,” Bruno said with a laugh. “But these kids don’t. We have great senior leadership. They’re embracing all of this. There’s no pressure on us and the guys don’t feel anything. They play loose, they play for each other and it’s been great to watch.”
Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MSGVarsity