By Andy Jacobs
It’s hard to say whether it was Bobby Chicoine’s bat or his throwing arm that made a bigger impression last Tuesday.
The Byram Hills senior standout pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 14 Hendrick Hudson batters and yielding just two hits, and also went 3-for-3 at the plate, including a prodigious second-inning home run into the distant left-field stands at Rockland County’s Clover Stadium that highlighted the Bobcats’ 8-0 victory over the Sailors.
“He was special today,” said Bobcats head coach Scott Saunders shortly after witnessing the multidimensional exploits of Chicoine. “Just a testament to him. He’s just such a great kid, he works so hard, and to be able to come out and pitch like that on the mound today, in this spot, was just really special for him.”
On a day when early-morning rain gave way to abundant sunshine, Chicoine wasted no time providing the Sailors with a glimpse of what they were in for as he retired the side in order to start the game and collected his first two strikeouts, both of them looking.
In the bottom of the first inning, Byram leadoff batter Christian Bellantoni doubled to right and scored one out later on a triple by Jared Cohen. Chicoine, hitting cleanup, brought in another run with a single to center.
After Chicoine set the Sailors down 1-2-3 again in the second, with two more strikeouts, the Bobcats all but put the game out of reach in their half of the inning, scoring five runs to open up a 7-0 advantage. The big inning began with walks to Dylan Ettinger and Justin Barad. They both soon scored on Danny Bernstein’s single to right field.
Bernstein, along with Cohen, who had reached on a walk, were both in scoring position with Chicoine at the plate. Hen Hud hurler Kieran Plunkett probably wishes he had issued him an intentional walk because Chicoine jumped on one of his offerings and sent a line-drive shot deep to left field that landed with a loud thud as it caromed off the bleachers beyond the wall.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely something that I’m gonna remember for a long, long time,” said Chicoine about his long home run in a ballpark built to test professional players.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” said Saunders. “He typically hits the ball real hard and sometimes they go up in the trees and it’s tough to tell how far they went. But we had a pretty good idea how far it went today. It just kind of jumped off the bat. You know, he took a great swing on it, found a great pitch to hit and he did some damage with it.”
Chicoine never actually saw the ball clear the fence and was running down the line toward first unsure if he was going to have to settle for an extra-base hit instead of a homer.
“I was thinking, because of what I’m used to, that it’ll be out,” he said. “As I was running down the line, I was like, ‘No, maybe not, it’s gonna hit the warning track or off the wall.’ So I started kind of running a little bit and then once I heard the cheering I knew, and it was surreal.”
Chicoine followed up his electrifying home-run blast by striking out the side in both the third and fourth innings. But Mike Gagliardi did manage a one-out single in the fourth to end Chicoine’s bid for a no-hitter. In the bottom of the fifth, Byram Hills added its final run as Chicoine led off with a hit and courtesy runner Chris You stole second, then scored on Jack Blackmar’s single to center field.
In the sixth inning, Hen Hud nearly got on the scoreboard when Tyler Muranaka was hit by a pitch, his pinch-runner moved to second on a wild pitch, and then Gagliardi lined his second hit of the day, a single to right field. But the Bobcats’ Bernstein fired a perfect strike home just in time to cut down the runner and preserve the shutout.
“Yeah, it was really nice to see the boys make a play,” said Saunders. “I thought our right fielder, Danny Bernstein, did a great job getting to it real quick and I thought our catcher, Jackson Smith, did a great job of putting on the tag and hanging onto it as the runner came through. So it was a well-executed play on both halves of it.”
After throwing 77 pitches, Chicoine’s day was finished after six innings. Southpaw Jackson Frankel came on in the seventh and quickly got into trouble when the first two Sailors reached base. But he struck out Mike Frustace, then retired Derek DeResh on a liner to short and Alec Tangredi on a fly to right to end the game.
“To play in a venue like this and have a special day for the boys was just really cool and something we’ve been looking forward to for a while,” said Saunders, whose Bobcats added wins over Ardsley and Somers later in the week to improve to 7-0-1 this season. “We played some of our best baseball today, so we were pretty excited about that.”
Chicoine, who was in fifth grade and can remember sitting in the stands at the same ballpark back in 2015 watching Byram Hills win the sectional title en route to its state championship, is hoping the undefeated start this year is just a prelude to postseason glory for this Bobcat team too.
“We’re hoping for the section and more,” he said. “Last year, we lost in the championship to Tappan Zee. Most of the guys on this team know that feeling. I’ve been part of two section championships that we lost. So this year, my last year, I’m really just trying to go out there, win a section and keep going from there.”
Andy is a sports editor at Examiner Media, covering seven high schools in the mid-Westchester region with a notebook and camera. He began there in the fall of 2007 following 15 years as a candid photographer for the largest school picture company in the tri-state area.