WHITE PLAINS – Out of the corner of his eye, Horace Greeley catcher Mack Lauder could see the runner on first base creeping just a little too far for his liking.
His coach, Anthony Marino, saw the same thing.
“I didn’t want to call it, because if I threw it over (the first baseman), that’s two or three runs,” Lauder said of the bases-loaded situation in the sixth inning. “Then coach was trying to get my attention, and he wanted me to do it. I said, ‘If he wants me to do it, I’ll do it.’ I saw he was like a quarter of the way down (to second base), so I just gunned him.”
With a perfectly executed snap throw, the senior got the crucial third out that the Quakers needed to preserve a two-run lead over fifth-seeded White Plains in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on Saturday. Twelfth-seeded Greeley rode that momentum and scored four more runs in the next inning, which came in handy.
The Tigers rallied with three runs in the seventh, but the last gasp was in vain. The Quakers pulled off a 6-3 upset win and will host No. 13 John Jay-EF in the quarterfinals on Monday.
“We were very amped up,” Lauder said. “We knew that if we came in here playing our game that things would turn out well. Brandon (Neeck) pitched a heck of a game. He couldn’t have pitched any better.”
Neeck’s presence on the mound only added to Greeley’s confidence. The sophomore left-hander has become a big name in Section 1 this season after playing one year at Iona Prep and already made his verbal commitment to the University of Virginia.
Matched up against White Plains’ senior ace, Daniel Lotito, Neeck went four consecutive innings without allowing a hit before getting into trouble in the sixth. Even when his command began to waver, the young ace found a way to gut out the win.
“I was really excited,” Neeck said. “You just have to feel like you’ve done it before and been there. It’s just a normal game. I had to get a feel for each of my pitches. Once they started feeling good, I was kind of rolling with it.”
Player of the game: Brandon Neeck, Horace Greeley — The southpaw was unhittable in the middle innings. He got into some trouble at the end of the game, but finished the five-hitter with 11 strikeouts on 112 pitches. Neeck also hit an RBI single in the second inning.
“He was able mix everything – the fastball, the two-seam, the slider, the changeup,” Lauder said. “He was able to do it in any count. We were throwing 3-2 sliders to guys to end an inning. Not many kids at this level can do that. That’s what makes him such a special talent.”
Turning point: Immediately after Lauder’s pick-off play, Quinn Carter provided a two-out, two-run single and Bobby Garbuio beat out an infield single to score another run. He got caught in a rundown to end the inning, but not before Carter scurried home to make it 6-0.
Stat line: Horace Greeley (9-12) — Neeck threw a complete game on 112 pitches (75 strikes), allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Garbuio went 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI, while Carter scored a run and had two RBI. White Plains (13-5-1) — Lotito threw a complete game on 105 pitches (72 strikes), allowing six runs (two earned) on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He also doubled and had an RBI and Gehrig Hauser added an RBI.
Quotable: “We definitely have not achieved to our potential,” Lauder said. “We have so much more talent. We have the hitting, we have the utmost confidence in our defense, and our pitching is second to none.”