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Clarke hitless in L.I. title game defeat

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The gutty performance turned in by pitcher Brendan Turton and the stellar play of the defense around him would ordinarily result in a victory. But, this was no ordinary Saturday night at the ballpark. This was Clarke vs. Sayville for the Class A Southeast Regional championship and Long Island bragging rights.

Turton was terrific. Brock Murtha was a little bit better. The Sayville junior tossed a no-hitter to lead the Golden Flashes to a 1-0 win before a boisterous, overflowing crowd on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. Sayville, which scratched out a run in the top of the seventh inning, advanced to the state semifinals where it will meet Ballston Spa.

Senior Jack Davis’s two-out single to right barely got past the outstretched glove of diving second baseman Nick Campagnoulo to bring home Nick Buffardi with the game’s only run. Murtha, who has already committed to play at Notre Dame, struck out nine, walked two, and hit a pair of batters.

“We hit a lot of balls hard, they just had us played right and they were playing deep,” Clarke coach Tom Abruscato said. “Both guys pitched great. There’s a reason Murtha is going to Notre Dame. He had to be throwing about 90, and he was consistently around the plate.”

After Buffardi reached on a walk, sophomore CJ Messina placed a bunt between Turton and first baseman Pavlos Papoutsakis that resulted in a hit to put two on with one out. Turton got leadoff hitter Thomas Nielsen to fly out, setting the stage for Davis. A sliding Buffardi beat the strong throw from right fielder Derek Smith.

Like Murtha, Turton was dealing all night. Despite allowing at least one runner to reach base in the first four innings, the senior right hander was dominant. Turton retired eight consecutive batters before yielding a double to freshman catcher Jack Quinlan in the top of the sixth.

“He’s been doing this for us all season,” Abruscato said. “I’m so proud of him. Game in, game out, you know what you’re getting from him. They were able to get one timely hit, and we weren’t. You not going to win if you don’t get any hits.”

Each time Sayville put runners on base, the Rams came up with a defensive gem. Papoutsakis, shortstop CJ Cumbo, center fielder Tyler Cox, and catcher Chris Giardino all took turns flashing leather for Clarke. The Rams, who won their seventh county title in what is considered the toughest class in the state, finished at 24-4-1.

“It was a terrific baseball game,” Abruscato said. “My guys have no reason to hang their heads. You know, anything can happen when it comes down to one game. It’s always about the journey to get to this point, and all the hard work that was put in. That’s what’s most important.”