The game-winning run stood 90 feet away. The crowd worked itself up into a lather and the opposition was on its feet, making noise however it could.
Matt Ecock nevertheless felt at home on the mound.
“I love that role,” James Madison’s closer said. “I love being the one with the ball in his hand when the game is on the line.”
That’s because he often excels in such a situation. Wednesday, May 5 was the latest example.
He tossed two shutout innings for his first league win, striking five of the six batters he faced, in Madison’s 4-2, eight-inning victory over rival Telecommunications in Dyker Heights, an important win for seeding purposes and overall borough supremacy.
“Our biggest game of the season,” Ecock said.
Ecock, a hard-throwing senior right-hander with a hammer for a curveball, relieved Knights ace Eddie Lenahan in the seventh. He promptly got into trouble, walking shortstop Joe Pena, who advanced to second on first baseman Alex Fernandez’s sac bunt and went to third on a wild pitch.
Yet, Ecock punched out second baseman Jeremy Jaume on a 3-2 breaking ball on the outside corner and fanned cleanup hitter Stan Simmons on three pitches. After Madison pushed across two runs in the top of the eighth – center fielder Joe Calascione scored on Pena’s error after doubling to left and left fielder John Yuksekol came home on a wild pitch – Ecock struck out the side.
“When he’s on the mound, whatever we ask of him he gets it done,” Calascione said.
Ecock wasn’t even a pitcher when he transferred to Madison from Xaverian following his sophomore year. He last was on the mound in the seventh grade, when he played with several of his current teammates. They told Madison coach Vinny Caiazza, who liked Ecock’s arm and made him into a reliever.
“I’ve known him for a while and he’s athletic,” said Calascione, who left Xaverian with Ecock. “Anything he does, he’s good at.”
Ecock came on late last season, picking up a win in Madison’s second-round upset of Grand Street Campus. He has thrived this season, shortening the game for Madison.
“It gives our starters comfort knowing they don’t have to go a full seven innings,” Caiazza sadi. “They can go as hard as they can for as long as they can.”
Madison didn’t do much damage offensively, managing only three hits off Telecom right-hander Chris Lee in six innings and six altogether. Lenahan drove in the first run with an RBI groundout in the third and Calascione scored the second one on Pena’s first error in the sixth. His second error, on a hard-hit two-hopper by Ecock, in the eighth, plated Calascione again, with the game-winner.
The Knights did what they had to, beating a borough rival for the second time in a week. They committed just one error, received six solid innings of three-hit, two-run ball from Lenahan. Last Wednesday, they were no-hit by Fort Hamilton’s Franciel Campusano, but still prevailed, 1-0, as Lenahan tossed a one-hit complete game.
“It says a lot about us,” Calascione said. “We took a lead, we lost it, and it shows how much we fight.”