SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS A TOURNAMENT | PHANTOMS 4, WILDCATS 0
One thing the members of the Shoreham-Wading River High School baseball team may remember most about their team this season was its comeback ability. The Wildcats have done it time and time again, sometimes in dramatic fashion.
“I know some teams crumble mentally when they’re down,” catcher Jack Massa said. “This team never seemed to do that.”
When the Wildcats needed runs, they often found a way to score them. Just not on Tuesday.
Then again, P. J. Weeks had something to do with that. As the No. 2 pitcher in Bayport-Blue Point’s starting rotation, Weeks tends to get overlooked in the shadow of the team’s ace, University of Maryland-bound standout Jack Piekos. But on Tuesday the spotlight was on Weeks, and he shined.
Weeks (6-2) tossed a four-hit shutout and Piekos homered as Bayport defeated Shoreham, 4-0, to claim its second straight Suffolk County Class A championship. The junior left-hander with the sub-1.00 earned run average struck out three and did not issue a walk at Bayport-Blue Point High School’s Curtis Field.
“Jack gets a lot of attention, and deservedly so, but P. J. is very, very good,” Bayport coach Jim Moccio said. He added, “We had all the faith in the world in him today.”
The victory advances defending state champion Bayport (17-6) to the Long Island final against Division or North Shore on June 7 at the Dowling Sports Complex. The winner of that game will compete in the state semifinals.
Bayport went 27-0 last year on the ride to its first state championship. The Phantoms are three wins away from a second one.
The loss in the double-elimination tournament caps an 18-5-1 season for Shoreham, the League VII champion that says goodbye to nine seniors, six of whom were starters. After the game, Wildcats coach Sal Mignano hugged each player on his team in the dugout.
“I’ve been coaching some of these guys for a long time,” he said. “I’ve known some of them all their lives.”
Shoreham and Bayport had split their previous four games this year, and Shoreham has mounted some memorable comebacks this season. So when Bayport took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, there was no reason for the Wildcats to panic.
“The 2-nothing didn’t bother me,” Mignano said. “The 4-nothing bothered me.”
Indeed, things looked a lot more serious for the Wildcats in the fifth when Piekos clocked a two-out, two-run homer, his second of the year.
Bayport’s first two runs in the fourth came when Jake Liberatore scored on a fielding error and Dylan Rooney singled in the second run. Rooney and T. J. McGuire had two hits each for the Phantoms, one of McGuire’s hits being a double.
Had the Wildcats won, it would have forced a final game against Bayport in Shoreham on Thursday. Piekos would have pitched in that game, but he wasn’t ready to throw on Tuesday, said Moccio.
No matter. Weeks was up to the challenge, spotting a two-seam fastball that tailed away from right-handed hitters. “They were popping it up and grounding out,” he said.
Matt Fox started for the Wildcats and pitched five innings before being relieved by John Montesano. Fox gave up five hits. Three runs were charged to him.
Bayport and Shoreham have been a good match for each other. The Wildcats edged out Bayport for the league title, and now the Phantoms have taken the county crown.
“We’re as even as we can be,” said Mignano.
“It’s always a challenge,” Massa said. “It’s not your normal game. It’s not a game where you can come out and say, ‘We got these guys.’ ”
The curtain closed on quite a season for the Wildcats, who surpassed the expectations of some.
“We played the best baseball that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Montesano.
Massa said, “Sadly, it had to end.”