SUFFOLK CLASS A TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 3, PHANTOMS 2 (8 INNINGS)
Say this about the Shoreham-Wading River High School baseball team, it has a flair for the dramatic.
The top-seeded Wildcats produced their third walk-off hit in the playoffs to beat No. 2 Bayport-Blue Point for the second time in as many days on Wednesday and capture their seventh Suffolk County championship.
Drew Sperruzzi’s two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning scored pinch runner Sean Logan, giving Shoreham a thrilling 3-2 triumph, not to mention its second straight Suffolk Class A title. It is the first time since the 1980s that Shoreham (20-5) has won back-to-back county crowns, according to Shoreham coach Sal Mignano.
In doing so, the Wildcats advance to a Long Island final against Island Trees or Plainedge on Tuesday at the Dowling Sports Complex.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Sperruzzi, a junior left fielder who never stroked a walk-off hit before. “We’re just a comeback team, and we never give up. We don’t give up until the last out.”
After the teams headed into the eighth inning at Kevin Williams Memorial Field, Shoreham pitcher Dan DeVito (7-0) retired the Phantoms in order. Then it was Shoreham’s chance to snatch victory in the bottom half of the inning.
Jono Criscito ripped a one-out single that shot off the pitcher’s mound and flew into center field. Tyler Osik then hit into a fielder’s choice, but made it to second base on an error, Bayport’s fourth of the game. After Logan trotted onto the field as a pinch runner for Osik, Sperruzzi made the most of his chance with a well-struck shot to right field.
“I knew [Bayport pitcher Mike Farley] was going to be throwing a lot of curveballs so I just wanted to stay back in the box and try to hit the other way,” Sperruzzi said. “I knew it was a hit right when I hit it.”
Shoreham players and coaches rushed onto the field in celebration. But amid the jubilation, some screams of pain could be heard.
One of Shoreham’s assistant coaches, Mike Gengler, was writhing on the ground in agony. Gengler apparently injured an ankle. Sperruzzi said Gengler jumped into his arms, but landed awkwardly.
“Crazy,” said Sperruzzi.
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Mignano, who watched the dog pile from the dugout, said he joked to Gengler, “You have to draw the attention, right?”
Medical personnel attended to Gengler while the Wildcats took a victory lap around the field, waving a Shoreham flag.
Yes, interesting things seem to happen when Shoreham plays a playoff game.
Shoreham never trailed in the game, although Bayport (18-6) did tie the score at 2-2 on Chris Brewer’s run-scoring single. Singles by Zach Campanelli and Farley set up that run.
That came an inning after Shoreham blew an opportunity to put some distance between itself and Bayport by leaving runners on second and third without scoring.
“With this team, it’s not deflating because they’ve proven to me that they just bounce back every time, and don’t let that bother them,” said Mignano.
Mike O’Reilly, who has hit two walk-off home runs for Shoreham in the playoffs, looked as if he might do it again. After Nick Bottari (3 for 4) drilled a two-out liner past the third baseman, Brewer, it was O’Reilly who put a scare into the Phantoms, crushing a ball that traveled some 370 feet to deep center field. Matt McKinnon caught it a few feet from the fence.
That left it up to Sperruzzi, who has been the No. 7 batter in Shoreham’s order all year, to come through.
“He proved today that he could get it done just as well as anybody by stroking the ball the other way,” Bottari said. “That’s what you have to do against a pitcher that’s throwing you a lot of curveballs.”
Shoreham had gotten off to a good start, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Bottari slammed a home run, his fifth of the year, some 350 feet, and Danny Luppens scored on a throwing error.
Farley socked a solo homer of his own in the second to put Bayport on the scoreboard.
DeVito threw a five-hitter with no walks and one strikeout as he pitched his second complete extra-inning game. The senior right-hander has pitched 17 innings in five days. Not that he was complaining about the workload. On the contrary.
“I could pitch all day,” he said. “I love it.”
Bayport’s ace, Farley (9-1), also went the distance, taking his first loss. The junior righty gave up seven hits and two earned runs. He issued three walks and had five strikeouts.
“Credit Shoreham,” Bayport coach Jim Moccio said. “They played like they’ve been here before. They really did.”
Shoreham had defeated Bayport, 6-0, the day before to force this decisive game. It was a Game 7, in the sense that it was the seventh game played between the two teams this year. Shoreham won four of them. This latest game, DeVito said, was the toughest his team had played all year. That might have made the victory celebration all the more sweeter.
“It’s just indescribable,” Bottari said. “It’s just a rush that you have that feels so great.”