FREEDOM PLAINS – The attention afterward turned immediately to Joe Ruppert, with teammates and even spectators approaching him for photos and asking to get a look at what became, essentially, a memento from the game.
The Arlington High School junior obliged each time on Wednesday, lifting the ice pack to give everyone a glimpse of his bloody index finger.
“It was pretty disgusting,” teammate Nick Lugo said. “As the game went on, he got blood on his mask and glove.”
Ruppert’s right hand was struck by a pitch as he squared to bunt in the third inning, the ball deflecting so hard off his digit that it sailed toward the backstop. The impact left a significant cut on the side of the finger and it quickly began to swell, although Ruppert had given little indication of the pain.
That sequence resulted only in a strike being called, by the way, so the at-bat continued.
“They said it was a strike one, so all I knew was I had to get back in there,” Ruppert said. “I did not feel it too much, so I definitely was not coming out.”
He then eschewed the bunt for a single to right that loaded the bases and led eventually to two runs for the Admirals, then remained in the game as a catcher and drove in a run, helping them to a 5-2 win over Clarkstown South.
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“I asked him if he could swing the bat and if he was okay to stay in,” Arlington coach John Biasotti said. “He looked at me funny and said, ‘Come on, Coach.’ We call Joe the ‘Dirt Dog,’ he’s as tough as they come. “
He also saved two potential wild pitches and was in good rhythm with Eric Servellon, the Admirals’ ace who earned the win.
An athletic trainer suggested the injury wasn’t as bad as it looked and that Ruppert likely wouldn’t need stitches. Unabashed, he shared photos of the finger with friends on social media and seemed far more concerned about celebrating the victory.
“When I saw it, I was like, ‘Whoa! There’s no way he’s gonna keep playing, ‘”teammate Erandis Pimentel said. “But I should’ve known better. My boy ‘Rup’ is tough like that. “
What it means
Arlington has won its first six games and, in beating Clarkstown South, added a brand name to the list of victories. The Vikings are among the better teams in Section 1 Class AA and the Admirals took a 5-0 lead on them, despite their high-powered offense being contained for the first time.
“Today was our lowest hit total of the season so far with six, but our approach at the plate has been good,” said Biasotti, whose team struck out only three times. “We’re putting the ball in play, making hard contact and putting pressure on defenses.”
The Admirals, who entered averaging 8.2 runs per game, weren’t as explosive against Clarkstown’s Kevin Blum, but they were opportunistic on the bases and effectively scratched out runs with a small-ball style.
“We were scrappy today and I love it,” Servellon said. “We’ve been scoring a lot in our first few games, but today we faced a really good pitcher, and they still found ways to get some runs in.”
An ability to dominate overmatched teams or scratch out runs against a tough opponent does bode well for Arlington going forward, as the team has championship aspirations.
Joe Manco led off the third inning with an opposite-field double to right, then Lugo was hit by a pitch and Ruppert blooped a single over second to load the bases. Sean Smith’s infield single drove in a run to give Arlington a 3-0 lead, then Ryan Letscher’s slow grounder to short brought in another run.
With a four-run lead and Servellon dealing, the Admirals were in control. The righthander worked out of a first-and-third jam in the top of the fourth after walking Chris Ahle and allowing Sean Clinton to single. Two strikeouts helped Servellon through that frame.
Arlington went up 2-0 in the second inning when, with the bases loaded and one out, Anthony Loia grounded to second for a force out but beat throw to first, enabling Smith to score. Letscher then came home on a wild pitch.
Lugo led off the fifth with a triple to deep center and scored on Ruppert’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-0.
“We’re doing the little things right,” Lugo said. “Nobody is worried about their stats; it’s about doing what it takes to score and get wins. ”
Player of the Game
Servellon surrendered five hits and struck out 11 in 5 ⅓ innings, the West Virginia commit effectively working through a talented Clarkstown lineup. The pitcher kept hitters off balance with his two-seamer and a hard slider, and got several swings and misses on his elevated four-seam fastball.
“He throws hard, he throws strikes and he’s consistent,” Ruppert said of Servellon, who threw 61 of his 86 pitches for strikes. “That’s what you need in a pitcher and he does that well.”
Servellon exited with one out in the sixth after giving up singles to Joe LaRosa and Ahle. Nick Huchro did pitch 1 ⅔ innings of relief, but a hit batter and an infield error allowed the two runs in the sixth.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to begin with, so it’s not that different,” Servellon said of the expectations that come with being a Division I commit. “I need to pitch well and put my team in position to win; that’s what I demand of myself. ”
By the numbers
Clarkstown South (4-3) – Blum allowed five hits, three walks and struck out three in five innings. Clinton went 2 for 2 and Ahle was 1 for 2 with a walk and a run.
Arlington (6-0) – Smith and Ruppert each went 1 for 3 with an RBI. Letscher was 1 for 2 with a walk, a run and an RBI, and Lugo was 1 for 2 with two runs.
“We’ve been working towards this since winter, so I did not expect anything less,” Servellon said of his team winning its first six. “Our goal is a section title. We came up short last year (losing in the semifinals), but we want to make another run at it. ”
“We’re off to a great start, but it’s always about how you finish, not how you start,” Biasotti said. “We’re not getting carried away. But we have been pitching well and hitting. We have to be pleased with how we’ve done so far. ”