When the bases were full, Shoreham-Wading River came up, well, not empty, but pretty darn close to it.
That may explain, just as much as anything else, why Mount Sinai got the better of SWR in the Suffolk County Conference V baseball final Friday. The opportunities were there for the Wildcats, but they ultimately went begging in a 4-1 loss at Mount Sinai High School.
SWR left the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth innings, and that proved costly against a team known for its pitching and defense.
“It’s the same kind of story we’ve had in pretty much all of our losses this year where we had opportunities, and sometimes we just didn’t come up with the big hit in spots,” SWR coach Kevin Willi said. He added, “That’s tough.”
And how! It wasn’t as if SWR (16-4) went down with the bat on its shoulder, either.
Trailing 3-0, SWR loaded the bases in the fifth when Joey Dwyer walked, Liam Bowes reached base on an error and Dan Kockenmeister drew a full-count walk off starter Daniel Kellechan (3-1). With two outs, Greg Friedman produced a fly ball into the swirling wind above rightfield. It was caught. (The second out of that inning saw Mount Sinai centerfielder Joe Valenti made a great sliding catch to rob Bill Steele of a hit).
SWR picked up its run the next inning — from Steele’s two-out, bases-loaded walk — but the yield could have been so much greater. Reliever Matt Galli saw Bowes drive one of his pitches to deep rightfield — only to be caught. End of threat.
“It’s just all about getting that big hit in the playoffs, and we didn’t get it today,” said Dwyer, a shortstop.
SWR hit 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 base runners. In an 11-inning loss to Mount Sinai during the regular season, the Wildcats left a remarkable 20 runners on base, said Willi.
“We had base runners,” Dwyer said, referring to Friday’s game. “We were knocking on the door every inning, just we couldn’t find it. It happens.”
Both Kellechan, who surrendered six hits over 5 2/3 innings, and Galli kept their composure when Wildcats were on the basepaths.
“It’s a testament to my guys buckling down in the right spot and executing the pitching, defensively making the play,” Mount Sinai coach Eric Reichenbach told reporters. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year. We’re not an offensive team. We get our hits here and there, we pitch and we play defense.”
And they win.
SWR could have blamed the defeat on a lack of timely hitting and one bad inning, from its perspective. That bad inning was the third when three unearned Mount Sinai runs scored. “In the playoffs, when you have two top teams, sometimes that’s the difference in a game,” said Willi.
An error, walk to Lani Bohne and Matthew Carrera’s bad-hop infield single off third baseman Jake Halloran filled the bases for J.T. Caruso, whose groundout brought in the first run. Galli followed by knocking a two-run single off Steele. Steele (4-2) allowed three hits over five innings before being relieved by Gordon Votruba.
Mount Sinai (18-2) made it 4-1 in the sixth. Caruso shot a single past the second baseman and Will Rodgers’ hit-and-run single put runners at the corners. Kyle Salvati reached base on a fielding error that allowed Caruso to come home.
This is Mount Sinai’s second county title (the first was in 2016), according to Reichenbach. The Mustangs will play either Island Trees or Clarke in the Long Island final Sunday at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
SWR, meanwhile, finished its season two wins shy of its goal. It was the final game for seven SWR seniors: Jacob Bacenet, Jonathan LoRusso, Christian Niski, Troy White, Dwyer, Halloran and Kockenmeister.
“It was a great time playing baseball with the seniors,” said Bowes, a junior catcher. “I’m so sorry to see them go. Anything less than a Long Island championship is a failure, though. Hopefully next year.”
Said Dwyer: “We just couldn’t get the big hit today. It’s not like we’re not good enough to do it. It just happens and it’s frustrating. We had a great season. It just [stinks] to go out like that.”