The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team easily could have given up on Thursday.
Nobody could have blamed pitcher Mike O’Reilly if he had packed it in after he threw five perfect innings only to let the lead slip away in the next two.
And after Sayville took a two-run lead on a home run in the eighth inning, the Wildcats, who had a loss to spare, could have been forgiven if they settled for a rematch on Friday.
But that’s not what this Shoreham-Wading River team had in mind. They wanted to win a championship. They wanted it now.
The Wildcats rallied back to tie the game on a two-run single by O’Reilly in the bottom of the eighth inning and then win it on a sacrifice fly from Ryan McAlary in the ninth to claim an 8-7 walkoff victory and the Suffolk County Class A title.
“This team has shown a ton of resiliency,” O’Reilly said afterward. “We believe we’re the best in the county, and now we’re the champs.”
It sure wasn’t easy, even if it appeared to be early on in the game.
O’Reilly cruised through the contest’s first five innings, retiring the first 15 batters he faced. And his team staked him to an early 3-0 lead.
Shoreham-Wading River (19-5) scored the first three runs in the bottom of the third inning on a rally sparked by a ground-rule double off the bat of McAlary. He’d then cross home on a single by Andrew Nicchi, who would later score off an RBI single by O’Reilly. The Wildcats’ third run came on a sacrifice fly from Danny Luppens, scoring Matt Kneisel.
Sayville would end up getting two runs back in the top of the sixth inning on a double by Tommy Dieckhoff, but O’Reilly stranded him in scoring position when he retired the final two batters of the frame.
Shoreham then appeared to be well on its way to the title when McAlary smacked a two-run homer for a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
It wasn’t meant to be.
The Golden Flashes (20-4) responded for three more runs in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings. The big blow came when Dieckhoff roped his second two-run double in as many innings with the Wildcats one out away from the county crown.
Sayville then took a 7-5 lead in extra innings off a two-run homer from Rich Millwater that came moments after an umpire ruled he had leaned into a pitch that struck him in the back and would have awarded him first base.
Wildcat reliever Dan Sperruzzi walked the bases loaded in the top half of the ninth inning, but escaped the jam by recording two straight outs to end the inning and earn the win.
McAlary’s sacrifice fly came with one out in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Jonathan Criscito. McAlary, who threw a playoff two-hit win against Sayville earlier in the week, had three hits and three RBIs in the win.
“It was the most important at bat of this year,” McAlary said of his ninth inning plate appearance. “I just knew I had to put it in play. I did and it ended up being the game winner. It feels great, but it hasn’t even really kicked in yet.”
O’Reilly’s game-tying single in the bottom of the eighth game him three RBIs on the day.
Nicchi went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.
All 15 runs were scored off the game’s starting pitchers, who both worked into extra innings.
Thursday’s win marks the seventh Suffolk title in Shoreham-Wading River history, and the first since 2002.
“It’s not exactly how I wrote the script,” SWR coach Sal Mignano joked after the game.
The Wildcats play the Nassau champ, Division High School of Levittown, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Farmingdale State College in the Long Island title game.
All four of Sayville’s losses this season came against Shoreham-Wading River.