SUFFOLK CLASS A TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 2, GOLDEN FLASHES 1 (9 INNINGS)
Mike O’Reilly’s exploits on the pitching mound are well known. But the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior isn’t bad in the batter’s box, either. O’Reilly has shown a knack for closing games in dramatic fashion with the bat in his hands.
He did it again on Saturday.
O’Reilly slugged a dramatic walk-off home run, his second in eight days, in the ninth inning as Shoreham-Wading River kept its playoff run alive, handing Sayville a cruel 2-1 defeat in the Suffolk County Class A baseball tournament.
With his team trailing, 1-0, and one runner on base with one out, O’Reilly jumped on a 1-0 fastball and drove it over the right-field fence, an estimated 345 feet at Kevin Williams Memorial Field in Shoreham. It was his fourth home run of the year and second of the playoffs. A week earlier, he had belted a walk-off homer in a playoff win over Rocky Point.
“It’s unreal to have that happen again,” O’Reilly said. “It’s as much of a rush as you can get. It’s unbelievable.”
O’Reilly was coming off a severe ankle sprain before that game against Rocky Point. Shoreham coach Sal Mignano said that when O’Reilly hit that winning home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, he limped around the bases à la Kirk Gibson. “This time he had a little more bounce in his step,” said Mignano.
And for good reason.
The triumph in what was essentially a loser’s bracket final of the double-elimination tournament, earned No. 1 seed Shoreham (18-5) a showdown with No. 2 Bayport-Blue Point (18-4) on Tuesday. Bayport would become the county champion with a win in that game. If Shoreham wins, the teams will meet once again on Wednesday to determine the county champion.
O’Reilly has a well-deserved reputation for coming through in the clutch.
“We all knew he was going to do it,” Shoreham pitcher Dan DeVito said. History “repeats itself. That’s all I can say.”
Mignano has good cause to rave about O’Reilly. “For him to do that, two wins in a row in the playoffs, says something about him as a player,” the coach said. “He’s been more than you can ask for in a kid. I don’t want to talk about his career right now, but he’s one of the best we’ve ever had.”
This marks the third straight year in which Shoreham has eliminated No. 5 Sayville (15-10) from the playoffs.
Sayville’s starting pitcher, Matthew Seeba, did a masterful job through the eight and one-third scoreless innings he pitched. He gave up four hits and three walks.
After Seeba got Shoreham’s first batter in the ninth, Steve Schneider, to line out to right field, Sayville coach Ryan Cox pulled him for reliever Ryan Aloise. Seeba trudged off to applause and congratulatory handshakes from teammates who walked out from the dugout to greet him.
The first batter Aloise faced, Nick Bottari, reached base on a fielding error. And then O’Reilly put an end to the proceedings with his blast, which had Mignano jumping for joy like a kid in the third-base coach’s box.
Things looked bleak for Shoreham after Sayville broke the ice with a run in the top of the ninth. Robert McCauley, who led off by lining a single to left, later scored on Joseph Kacinski’s sacrifice fly to deep left.
Neither team had a strikeout, which was unusual for a pitcher’s duel. DeVito (6-0) worked the full nine innings, hurling a five-hitter. He walked one batter and hit two.
Sayville turned four doubles plays to help keep the game scoreless through eight innings. But possibly the best defensive play of the day was turned in by Shoreham’s right fielder, Danny Luppens, who prevented a Sayville run with his arm in the second inning. DeVito hit the first two batters that inning, McCauley and Peter Rende. Two outs later, Ben Gudesblatt singled sharply to right field and McCauley raced toward home plate. A great throw by Luppens to catcher Jono Criscito got McCauley for the third out.
It was the 550th career win for Mignano, the only coach Shoreham has had in its 36-year team history. He ranks No. 1 in wins among active Suffolk coaches and is second on the county’s all-time win list.
Before the game Mignano met with his seniors on the field. He said he told them: “We’re having too much fun together. Let’s not let this end.”
O’Reilly, for one, didn’t sound ready to say goodbye to his high school playing career.
“They’re going to have to rip this jersey off me,” he said. “I’m not ready to stop playing yet.”