SUFFERN – Opening Day in any baseball season always brings excitement. There’s a lot of hoopla and first-game jitters, but players and coaches know it’s more ceremonial than anything.
In the end, it’s one game of many, and it won’t make or break any team’s season.
With that being said, Horace Greeley couldn’t have asked for a better start in 2016.
The Quakers looked like a major force at the Pat Faherty Memorial Tournament on Saturday, beating Nyack 3-0 in their opener before dismantling Stepinac with a 12-0 rout for the title.
“It was awesome. It was a field day out there,” senior Justin Schachter said. “I think we’re really, really good, but we have a lot to work on. We’re going to be humble.”
Schachter, who led Greeley in wins last season, got the start in the first game, tossing a four-hitter with eight strikeouts. Not to be outdone, Brandon Neeck was equally impressive in the second game. The sophomore left-hander threw a three-hitter with eight strikeouts against a tough Stepinac lineup.
Neeck is a transfer from Iona Prep and looks like a big find for the Quakers. He also hit the longest shot of the day, a deep triple that sparked a six-run third inning against Stepinac.
“They didn’t really put pressure on me, but it’s good to be able to show up,” Neeck said. “I’m very happy. I’ve known (my teammates) for a while because I grew up with them. I feel like I’m fitting in really well. They’ve really accepted me.”
Greeley’s pitching depth should make them a contender in Class AA – Schachter and Neeck did not allow a runner to get past second base in either game – and its lineup gives coach Anthony Marino a balanced attack.
The Quakers pounded out eight extra base-hits, including six against Stepinac, which defeated host Suffern 10-2 in its first game.
“It felt like BP, almost,” Schachter said. “We were going gap-to-gap, running the bases hard and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I’m happy for the guys and happy everyone hit well.”
Player of the game: Justin Schachter and Brandon Neeck, Horace Greeley — How can you pick one? Both pitchers threw complete-game gems, and they both hit booming triples.
“We controlled the strike zone,” Schachter said. “We pounded it, and when we’re ahead, it makes it a lot easier. We dominated and kept the ball down in the zone, which is huge. If we do that, we can keep the ball out of the gaps and help our defense.”
Turning point: Neeck led off the third inning against Stepinac with a deep triple that probably traveled 400 feet. An error allowed the first two runs of the game to score, followed by run-scoring hits from Satchel Schultz and Nate Goodman. The Quakers had a 6-0 lead before an out had been recorded in the inning.
Stat line: Horace Greeley (2-0) — Schachter allowed four hits and one walk while striking out eight on 89 pitches (61 strikes) and Neeck allowed three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts on 91 pitches (57 strikes). Quinn Carter had a double, a triple, two RBI and four runs scored, Schultz had four RBI and Mack Lauder had three. Goodman and Schachter each had two RBI.
Quotable: “I was just hitting my spots,” Neeck said. “My fastball and changeup felt really good, which is what I rely on for the most part. Your confidence definitely goes up – especially when you get a big lead. I was able to relax.”