Baseball: Wildcats nail down share of their 14th league title

Winners find a way to win. Talent has a lot to do with it, but sometimes a little magic along the way helps.

Consider the trouble Shoreham-Wading River was in during the third inning of its Suffolk County League VII baseball game against rival Bayport-Blue Point on Friday. An infield single by Chris Behan, a walk by Jake Giannico and a throwing error that allowed Jake Liberatore to reach safely, loaded the bases for Bayport — with none out!

The Phantoms were looking at the promise of a big inning.

It didn’t materialize.

Shoreham pitcher Ryan Mullahey got Matt Lestrange to bounce into a double play that went from shortstop T.J. Sicoli to catcher Tom Brady to first baseman Dean Stalzer. Bayport still had two runners in scoring position when Francesco Geraci flied out to rightfielder Nick Manesis.

That’s quite an escape act.

“We make big plays when it counts,” said Manesis.

Call it the stuff of champions.

Shoreham went on to post a 4-0 victory at Kevin Williams Memorial Field, sweeping a three-game series from Bayport and clinching at least a share of its 14th league championship and second in a row.

“You need that, kind of a little bit of luck and a little bit of talent and a little bit of grit kind of added together makes a championship team,” said coach Kevin Willi, whose team has won 10 straight.

A gutty pitching performance by Mullahey (5-0), who hasn’t allowed an earned run in the 31 1/3 innings he has pitched this season, laid the foundation for the victory. The junior, who pitches righthanded and bats lefthanded, hurled a five-hitter with five strikeouts and two walks over the course of his 103-pitch outing.

Referring to Mullahey’s 0.00 ERA, teammate Brian Morrell, who has allowed only one run himself, said: “That’s ridiculous. That’s crazy. He’s been unbelievable for us.” (Shoreham has a 1.07 team ERA).

What was Willi’s take on Mullahey’s performance Friday?

“He gutted it out,” the coach said. “I’d say this wasn’t his best stuff that he’s had all year. He’s been a little bit sharper, but that’s good for a pitcher to have a day where his stuff is not at its best and you still get guys out, and you’re still doing a good job of throwing strikes.”

Mullahey credits the defense behind him for his ERA. “It’s definitely the best on Long Island, I think,” he said. “I have no doubt in any of the guys. I know when ball is hit anywhere on the field, my guys are going to make the play.”

Bayport pitcher Jake Liberatore, who went the distance, was touched for an unearned run in the fifth inning. Manesis walked, stole second base and scored on an error.

The following inning, Shoreham (14-1, 14-1) made it 2-0 when Tom Brady followed up Kyle Baylous’ two-out double with a single.

Shoreham tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth. The Wildcats produced four of their seven hits that inning, including Mullahey’s slow-rolling RBI single into rightfield and a pinch-hit RBI single by Jon Luppens.

Bayport (8-7, 8-7) mounted a threat in the seventh, which Josh Monturo opened with a double. The Phantoms loaded the bases with two outs before Mullahey got Liberatore to bounce into a game-ending fielder’s choice.

“We always find a way,” said Morrell.

Asked if he takes pride in his 0.00 ERA, Mullahey said: “It’s a good accomplishment, but you can’t ride it forever. Obviously, I’m going to give up a run soon. It’s bound to happen. The one common goal is to keep winning.”

Morrell fires his fifth no-hitter. Shoreham senior Brian Morrell tossed his second no-hitter of the season and the fifth of his career Thursday as the Wildcats won, 7-0, in Bayport. The righthander, who is headed to Notre Dame, had 15 strikeouts and walked three.

“Throwing five no-nos is definitely hard to do,” Morrell said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it during the game.”

Kevin Willi said radar guns had clocked Morrell’s fastball at 95 miles per hour more than once during the game.

Morrell was aided by second baseman Kyle Baylous, who made a diving play to his left in the sixth inning. Baylous’ throw to first was picked out of the dirt by Dean Stalzer.

Morrell was appreciative of the play Baylous made to save the no-hitter. “I took him out to dinner,” said Morrell.

Shoreham’s Nick Manesis belted his sixth home run of the season. The 6-foot-3 Manesis is hitting for power and average, batting over .400.

“I’m seeing good pitches, having good at-bats, trying to put the barrel on the ball, hit it hard somewhere,” he said. “It’s been working out for me.”

As have things for Morrell.

“He really had his good stuff,” Willi said. “What can I say? A fifth no-hitter. I’m glad to have him. I wish he would be back next year.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River shortstop T.J. Sicoli grabs a ground ball. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)