Photo by Eric Hasert
FORT PIERCE —
In a game where pitching dominated, timely hitting by Fort Pierce Post 358 helped it beat Vero Beach Post 39 2-0 and advance to the American Legion baseball state championship round.
Through the first five innings, starters James Touhey (Vero Beach) and Matty Nocito (Fort Pierce) dominated the game, allowing no runs and few runners to get on base. But in the top of the sixth inning, Fort Pierce caught a break.
Center fielder Brandon Brown led off with a double. After moving to third with one out, Brown scored on a wild pitch by Touhey. Fort Pierce would get an insurance run in the seventh on designated hitter Dalton Murray’s RBI single.
“It’s about manufacturing runs,” Fort Pierce manager Andrew Wells said. “It’s about getting guys on early and moving them over. Two-out hits win championships and we got guys on early, and we did what we’re supposed to do and that’s moving guys over.”
The situational hitting was crucial for Fort Pierce, but Nocito’s pitching performance set the benchmark for the game. Nocito, from Port St. Lucie High School, threw an efficient 87 pitches en route to a complete-game shutout. He allowed four hits and two walks, and struck out four.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Nocito said.
Although he was happy for his team, Nocito knows it will take more hitting and scoring to win the state crown.
“We definitely got to hit the ball more because you have to score more runs,” he said. “You can’t win a game without scoring runs.”
Touhey also had a strong performance despite the loss. He tossed a complete game, allowing five hits, five walks and two earned runs, while striking out five.
“My hat’s off to James Touhey,” Wells said. “He did a phenomenal job. It was unfortunate that either pitcher had to lose that game because they did such a great job.”
Fort Pierce now plays for the state title Sunday afternoon. Post 358 will face the winner of the Boynton Beach-Royal Palm game, which begins at 10 a.m. Sunday. Both games will be at Indian River State College.