CLASS A COUNTY FINALS, GAME 2 | WILDCATS 4, PHANTOMS 0
It took only 73 minutes for Shoreham-Wading River to ensure its season wasn’t over just yet.
Behind a six-hit shutout from senior Matt Fox, a pair of early home runs and some superb defense, the Wildcats blanked Bayport-Blue Point 4-0 in Game 2 of the Class A championship Friday afternoon at Kevin Williams Memorial Field.
Each team will turn to their aces for a decisive Game 3 Monday back in Bayport to determine the county champion.
Fox pitched what was easily his best game of the season.
“Saved it for a pretty solid time,” he said.
It was his first complete game of the year and he needed 93 pitches to get through it. He changed speeds well and kept the ball down in the zone to keep the Bayport hitters off balance. He struck out three and mostly relied on his defense behind him.
“If he leaves the ball up, that’s when guys hit him,” said Shoreham coach Kevin Willi. “When he’s down like he was today, guys are popping up, grounding out. He’s definitely a contact pitcher.”
The Phantoms hoped to stage a late rally when they got runners at the corners with one out. On the first pitch to Kyle Lawrence, Fox got a ground ball to second. Tom Brady fielded it cleanly, threw to shortstop Brian Morrell for the first out and he relayed the ball over to first for the game-ending double play.
Willi said afterward that he was prepared to go to the bullpen after Lawrence’s at-bat.
The double play allowed Fox to finish the game.
“It worked out great,” Willi said.
It was the second time this postseason that Fox took the ball with the Wildcats down 1-0 in a series. He was in the same spot against John Glenn, when he pitched the Wildcats to a win in that series.
“I know this team and once we put some runs on the board, I feel pretty confident,” Fox said.
Fox said he expected Bayport’s hitters to come out aggressive looking to swing at first pitches. His goal was to upset their timing.
“My job was to come in and throw them stuff that they don’t like,” he said.
The Wildcats improved to 4-0 this postseason in elimination games. They’ll need another win Monday to extend the season and from here on out, every game is win or go home.
The Wildcats, who stranded several runners early in Game 1, were able to jump on Bayport pitcher Jake Terrill early in this game.
In the first inning, Morrell hit a home run to straightaway center field, a high fly ball that kept drifting back and finally over the fence. In the second, left fielder Mike Keller launched a ball to center for his second home run of the postseason and fourth of the season.
Just like that, the Wildcats had a 2-0 lead.
“I was just looking for a fastball and I found it,” Keller said.
Keller had been predominantly batting in the eighth hole. But he’d been on such a tear in the playoffs, Willi said he had to move him up. Keller batted sixth Friday.
“I didn’t want to rock the boat,” Willi said. “He’s been hitting so well so I didn’t want to move him too far up. I looked at the way he’s hitting, even breaking balls that he had trouble with earlier in the season, he’s still hitting them. He’s just so hot, you got to move him up to an RBI spot.”
Morrell’s home run was his fifth on the season to lead the team.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth inning using some small ball.
Catcher Chris Sperruzzi laid down a sacrifice bunt with runners at the corners to bring in right fielder John Montesano. Dalton Stalzer followed with an RBI single to left.
“I think getting ahead early was key for us,” Keller said. “Especially throughout this playoffs. Usually when we’re ahead, we hold onto it.”
It was the first win for Shoreham against Bayport this season. The Phantoms had won six in a row against the Wildcats dating back to last season.
Game 3 sets up to be a pitcher’s duel. Morrell, who’s 2-0 in the postseason, will be matched up against Bayport senior P.J. Weeks.
Weeks is 2-0 in the postseason and has not allowed a run yet. He gave up just four hits in each of his two wins. Weeks shut out the Wildcats in the regular season, a 4-0 win.
The Wildcats hope the transition from the off-speed throwing Fox to the hard-throwing Morrell can further disrupt the Bayport hitter’s timing.
“It’s definitely a different type of pitcher and we’ll have a different approach to some batters, too,” Willi said.