SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS A TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 4, HURRICANES 3
With its green and white fatigue-patterned baseball jerseys, Westhampton Beach brings a military bearing to the field. But it was Shoreham-Wading River’s fighting spirit that enabled the Wildcats to win the battle.
Playoff wins generally don’t come easily. They require execution, persistence, and sometimes a little magic doesn’t hurt, either.
Over the years the Wildcats have participated in their fair share of magical games. Their playoff opener on Friday can be counted among them.
After falling behind by three runs in the top of the seventh inning, the Wildcats, with only three outs to work with, mounted an unlikely comeback that ended with them forming a triumphant dogpile for the second game in a row. They scored all of their runs in the bottom half of the inning, including the game-winning run by Jack Massa, who scored from third base on an infield error, for a 4-3 triumph over Westhampton Beach in the Suffolk County Class A Tournament.
“We found a way to win,” said Shoreham’s starting pitcher, Chris Moran.
A breakthrough in what up to that point had been a game of missed opportunities came two outs into the seventh. After two of his teammates walked, Ryan Osborne delivered a home run over the left-field fence at Shoreham’s Kevin Williams Memorial Field for a 3-0 Westhampton Beach lead.
It had to be a deflating sight for the Wildcats (17-3-1), but they didn’t wilt under pressure.
“We don’t give up,” Moran said. “We’re down, we always come back. It’s our mentality.”
They found a way to reply, with station-to-station baseball. The first three Shoreham batters in the seventh reached base. It started with Adam Piotrowski, the player who one of Shoreham’s assistant coaches, Ray Maccagli, calls the platoon sergeant because of his on-field leadership.
“I don’t care if I got a walk or a hit, I just had to get on base and start it up,” Piotrowski said. “That was my job.”
Piotrowski connected on an inside pitch for a single. Then Kyle Pendergast walked. After Westhampton Beach (11-11) brought its top pitcher, Brett Pisaneschi, in to relieve Nick Arpino, Pisaneschi hit Moran with the first pitch he threw, loading the bases. Pisaneschi then retired the next two batters before facing Massa. Massa worked a 3-2 count before drawing a walk for Shoreham’s first run.
“We kept fighting,” said Shoreham second baseman Matt Fox.
If that put pressure on the Hurricanes, what happened next must have really unsettled them. Fox (3 for 4) lined a single past the sprawling shortstop, who got a piece of the ball but couldn’t stop it. Two runs came in and, just like that, the score was tied at 3-3.
It was John Montesano’s turn to bat next, and he hit a ground ball to the second baseman. The throw to first was bounced, Montesano was safe, Massa scored, and the Wildcats were winners.
“Very cool,” said Shoreham coach Sal Mignano.
Fox offered a somewhat surprising opinion when asked what he thought was the key factor in Shoreham’s win. He said it was Osborne’s home run, of all things. “I think it kind of gave us some fire because there was no offense prior to that so I think it kind of like motivated us to, you know, put some runs on the board,” he said.
As their reward, the top-seeded Wildcats will play a winner’s bracket game at home on Wednesday against No. 2 Bayport-Blue Point or No. 3 Harborfields.
No. 5 Westhampton Beach drops to the loser’s bracket for a game on Monday against No. 6 Rocky Point or No. 7 Sayville.
The League VII champion Wildcats, winners of seven of their last eight games, had cause to be concerned Friday. Although they have dropped only three games this season, two of them have been to Westhampton Beach. But they were coming off a memorable series against Bayport in which all three games were decided by one run in extra innings. Pressure situations are nothing new to the Wildcats.
“We definitely have confidence,” said Piotrowski.
Through the first six innings, both sides failed to score despite putting runners on base. Pitchers from both teams came through with big strikeouts to get out of jams.
Moran got Ryan Burke to look at a called third strike, stranding two runners in the second. Then, in the fifth, with the bases loaded, Moran fanned Osborne to get out of the inning.
Similarly, Westhampton Beach’s Zach Downs left a runner on third thanks to his strikeout of Pendergast for the third out in the second. Three innings later, Downs struck out Tyler Osik, ending a threat with a pair of runners on base.
Moran allowed four hits in five-plus innings, walking five and striking out four.
Over the five innings Downs pitched, he gave up two hits, two walks and struck out two.
With the win, the Wildcats earned themselves a welcomed two additional days of rest.
“Thank God,” Moran said. “Oh man, I’m not going to have my voice back for a couple of days, but yes, we definitely need that rest.”