CLASS A LONG ISLAND FINALS | RED DEVILS 3, WILDCATS 1 (11 innings)
It will go down as one of the greatest pitching performances in Shoreham-Wading River history, an epic 11-inning war of attrition that tested every bit of Mike O’Reilly’s fortitude.
Improbably, it will also go down as a loss, a cruel ending to a brilliant effort.
For 10 innings Tuesday afternoon against Plainedge in the Class A Long Island championship, O’Reilly — the right-handed senior ace of the Wildcats — shut down the Red Devils with a dazzling mix of fastballs and curveballs. Eight Plainedge batters had already been caught looking at a called third strike, eight more swinging, when O’Reilly walked back to the mound to start the 11th inning, the game deadlocked at 0-0.
He entered the 11th having not allowed a run in 22 straight innings, a stretch that began in the third inning against Bayport-Blue Point 13 days earlier.
As Plainedge lefty Tyler Manez masterfully matched his zeros at Dowling Sports Complex, O’Reilly needed a near perfect effort.
He nearly did it, until the Red Devils finally broke through with three runs in the 11th as O’Reilly’s pitch count skyrocketed. The Wildcats, who fought back from deficits throughout the playoffs, tried to mount a rally in the bottom half, but could only answer with one run off Manez.
Plainedge held on for the 3-1 victory, clinching the program’s first Long Island title since 1992 while advancing to the state semifinals Saturday morning in Binghamton.
O’Reilly posted a career-high 19 strikeouts in his final game wearing a Shoreham uniform. Afterward he said there was no way he was coming out even as the game dragged into extra innings.
“My arm would come off with the ball before [coming out],” O’Reilly said.
Plainedge senior Steve Miller delivered the game’s first RBI hit when he drove in two runs with a two-strike single to left-center in the 11th.
“I don’t think we made much contact with two strikes the whole day,” said Plainedge coach Tom Pisani. “Two strikes, he gets a pitch out over the plate he can handle and didn’t bloop it in there. He hit it hard.”
O’Reilly hit the first batter, leadoff hitter Ralph Caccavale, before walking Joe Hauer. A double steal moved them both into scoring position for Miller.
“Once [Caccavale] got on we know he can run and do a bunch of things,” O’Reilly said. “I was trying to just focus, get my pitches down and stuff. They got a couple across and they were just the better team today.”
O’Reilly gave up six hits and walked three. Manez, who will pitch at Division I Elon University next year, gave up seven hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
“I haven’t seen a pitcher’s duel like that,” said Shoreham coach Sal Mignano. “Forget a playoff game, the regular season. Two just dominant, dominant pitchers.”
At one point O’Reilly struck out 10 of 12 batters from the third inning into the seventh. He retired 13 in a row.
“We knew [Manez] was a great pitcher, but we knew our guy was great too,” Mignano said. “I think anybody could have predicted a close, low-scoring, one-run game. It was just a matter of who was going to push one across first or in the most critical spot.”
The Wildcats (20-6) got a run across in the 11th when Dan Luppens hit a grounder to third with two out and runners at the corners. The throw took the first baseman off the bag and Luppens dove into the bag safely.
It brought up catcher Jack Massa — filling in for Jonathan Criscito, who wasn’t at the game for disciplinary reasons -— and Manez buckled down for his 10th strikeout to put the finishing touches on a thrilling game.
“I can’t say it enough about the team this year how great we battled,” O’Reilly said. “We came back every time, even the last inning here. These guys just keep fighting.”
O’Reilly went 2-for-5 at the plate. He was the only Shoreham batter with multiple hits. He singled in the 11th before Luppens’ at-bat to keep the inning alive.
Pisani said he thought his team wasn’t aggressive enough in the middle innings when O’Reilly was breezing through the lineup.
“He was phenomenal,” Pisani said. “You can coach your kids up on situations to hit, but when a kid is throwing his deuce for strikes like that and throwing mid to high 80s and painting the corners, you’re going to have to earn it.”
The Wildcats had a shot at scoring the go-ahead run in the fifth inning. Designated hitter Tyler Osik led off with a single before Kyle Pendergast came in to run for him. Manez struck out the next two batters. With Sean Logan up as a pinch hitter, Pendergast swiped second to get into scoring position.
Logan then lined a single into left field, but Gianfranco Soriente charged in on it and threw a strike to home plate to get Pendergast for the third out.
With both pitcher’s looking nearly unhittable, Mignano gambled by sending Pendergast with two outs in the inning.
“You get an opportunity like that to try and score, you give it a shot,” Mignano said. “It took a good throw to get him.”
The Wildcats fell in the Long Island championship for the second straight year.
“To get back to this game with the spots we had to fill is just a credit to the kids,” Mignano said.