Now here is something you don’t see every day: Shoreham-Wading River lost a baseball game.
Losing isn’t something the Wildcats are used to, which is a good thing. They have a strong distaste for it, which is another good thing.
It was ironic that Shoreham lost Thursday, the final day of the regular season, because losing is something the recently crowned Suffolk County League VII champions have done very little of this year.
After Shoreham’s 8-4 loss to Mount Sinai — only its third defeat in 18 games — someone suggested to coach Kevin Willi that it was akin to a hiccup.
The way Willi saw it, “It’s a little punch in the face.”
It wasn’t the way Shoreham wanted to cap the regular season, especially for its 10 seniors on Senior Day at Kevin Williams Memorial Field. But now the Wildcats must move on in preparation for their 33rd consecutive appearance in the playoffs, a remarkable string. Willi expects Shoreham to receive the No. 1 seed in Suffolk Class A for its defense of its county title, which will begin on Wednesday.
Willi, whose team has a 58-11 record since 2016, understands that greater urgency comes with the playoffs.
“In the regular season you can strategize matchups back and forth and stuff, but you just go all out in the playoffs,” he said. “You just go out with your best every day and play ball and see what happens, and really all the teams are quality teams so you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs.”
Shoreham clinched the league title outright with a win over East Hampton on May 3. It is the Wildcats’ third straight league championship, fourth in five years and 15th overall.
“We achieved that big goal, but we definitely don’t want to just settle with that,” said T.J. Wachter, a 6-foot-5 sophomore first baseman/relief pitcher. “We want to keep going and we want to keep playing as long as we possibly can.”
Aside from Thursday’s loss, Shoreham saw something else unusual: Ryan Mullahey (4-1) suffered his first career pitching loss. The senior righthander, who is 11-1 over two years, had a rough start as Mount Sinai (11-9, 10-8) struck for three runs in the first inning. Two of them came on back-to-back home runs nailed by Jared Donnelly and George Rainer on successive pitches.
Mount Sinai’s three-run burst in the sixth — from an RBI double that Ethan Angress drove into the right-centerfield gap and T.J. Werner’s two-run double that made the score 7-4 — prompted Jack Crowley being brought on in relief. By the time Mullahey’s work on the mound was done after 5 2/3 innings, he had given up 10 hits and issued three walks, with four strikeouts. Six of the runs he allowed were earned.
Werner went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two doubles and two stolen bases.
After falling into a 4-0 hole, Shoreham evened things in the third when Ethan Baumack drew a bases-loaded walk, Wachter tagged a two-run lined single before later scoring himself on an error.
That’s a testament to the fighting spirit Shoreham has.
“They don’t give up,” Wachter said of his teammates. “Nobody on this team is looking to lose. They want to beat everybody by 25 runs.”
Mullahey was involved in controversy in the sixth when he led off with what at first appeared to be a home run over the leftfield fence. The Shoreham side was irritated, however, when the umpires conferred and ruled it a ground-rule double.
Shoreham, though, also stranded 10 base runners, hitting 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“Just getting guys in, that’s something that we really stress here, and just sometimes you don’t do the job and it’s the way baseball is,” Wachter said. “You can’t change it. Everyone has off days.”
This certainly hasn’t been an “off” season for Shoreham, despite graduating 16 players from last year’s team.
“We came out tough, proved people wrong, won our first 13,” said rightfielder Tyler Widercrantz.
Shoreham has won seven of its last nine, both losses coming to Mount Sinai.
It is the good work Shoreham has done for much of the season that will surely reward the Wildcats with a high seeding when the playoff brackets are released.
“We put ourselves in a good spot,” Willi said. “I think [the regular season has been] overall pretty successful. I would have liked to have ended it on a higher note going into the playoffs, but there’s a lot of positives to look at.”
Photo caption: Victory was beyond Shoreham-Wading River’s reach, just as this first-inning double by Mount Sinai’s Nick Cergol evaded diving rightfielder Tyler Widercrantz. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)