CLASS A TOURNAMENT | PHANTOMS 6, WILDCATS 1
All season Shoreham-Wading River has been a team of improbability. From a freshman throwing two no-hitters, to an epic come-from-behind win in the first round of the playoffs, it often seems as if anything is possible.
Wednesday offered another opportunity: a chance to beat the best pitcher in Suffolk County and secure a trip to the Class A county finals.
But after falling behind early to Bayport-Blue Point ace pitcher Jack Piekos, the Wildcats were out of miracles.
Piekos, a University of Maryland-bound lefty, tossed a five-hit complete game to carry the Phantoms to a 6-1 victory over Shoreham in front of a big crowd at Kevin Williams Memorial Field. The loss drops the Wildcats into the loser’s bracket, where they’ll play Harborfields Thursday afternoon in an elimination game at 4 p.m. in Shoreham. Harborfields defeated Rocky Point Wednesday.
A win would set up another matchup against Bayport Tuesday and the Wildcats would need to beat the Phantoms (17-6) twice to win their third county title in four years.
The Wildcats (17-4-1) have seen plenty of Piekos of late. He pitched nine shutout innings against Shoreham May 6, striking out 17 in a losing effort. Shoreham won 1-0 in 13 innings.
“There’s little margin for error when you face a kid like him,” said Shoreham coach Sal Mignano.
While Piekos wasn’t as dominant this time around — he struck out 8 — it was still good enough to lift the defending state champs to the critical victory.
“Shoreham’s a really good team,” said Piekos, who won his eighth game this season. “They’re solid throughout the lineup so my mindset coming in was just do what I’ve done in the past, try to get ahead of batters, throw strikes. It’s tough if you fall behind this team.”
Bayport scored one in the second and then two more in both the third and fourth innings. A 5-0 deficit against Piekos can feel like an awfully steep mountain to climb.
“I think the good thing about our approach today is we’ve had some success with him,” Mignano said. “I still feel like these kids don’t quit. They don’t give up.”
Freshman Brian Morrell started for Shoreham and pitched 3 2/3 innings. The Wildcats were shaky defensively behind him early in the game. Errors in the second and third inning helped the Phantoms race out to a quick 3-0 lead. The two runs Morrell allowed in the third were both unearned after Dylan Rooney singled to right field with two out to score two runs.
Piekos drove in two runs in the fourth inning with a single to center field and was the last batter Morrell faced. He traded positions with Matt Fox at shortstop. Fox pitched well in relief, giving up one run in 3 1/3.
Senior Chris Moran will start tomorrow’s game. Moran pitched the Wildcats’ playoff opener against Westhampton.
The Wildcats’ lone run against Piekos came in the fourth. Fox walked with one out and John Montesano followed with a single down the right field line. Zach Parilla singled through the right side to bring around Fox. Piekos came back to get the next two batters and halt the rally.
Shoreham had a chance to get to Piekos early. The Wildcats loaded the bases in the first inning. But Piekos escaped with a strikeout after throwing 25 pitches in the opening frame.
“When you face a good pitcher like him and you have an opportunity early, you have to take advantage,” Mignano said.
Piekos threw 112 pitches in the game. And he even admitted to filling some nerves at the start of the game.
“I was definitely nervous,” he said. “A hit and two walks and they have the bases loaded. I was definitely worried, but getting out of it helped me calm down and pitch my own game.”
Piekos was up in the strike zone a lot early in the game, which contributed to a few early walks. Mignano said in the previous game, the Wildcats were chasing the high pitches. But they did a better job this time to stay disciplined.
“Every time he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch,” Mignano said.
In four games now this season, each team has won twice.
Piekos expects there to be a fifth game.
“I’m expecting to see them in the county championship,” he said.