Bayport-Blue Point came out hitting — and didn’t really stop.
Then, just like that, two games into the playoffs and Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball season was over.
As coaches are fond of saying, the regular season is one thing, the playoffs are another. Once the postseason begins, what happened in the regular season becomes irrelevant.
That was underlined emphatically Thursday when Bayport-Blue Point, the No. 4 seed in the Suffolk County Class A Conference IV Tournament, blasted No. 2 SWR, 10-1, at Moriches Athletic Complex. This was the same Bayport team that had been swept by League VII champion SWR in three regular-season games, 4-1, 7-5 and 2-1.
But, again, that was the regular season, and largely irrelevant at this stage.
Bayport (15-7) racked up 15 hits in Thursday’s elimination game, the exact same number it totaled in its three-game series during the regular season. The Phantoms also received a splendid complete game from Liam Stemmler, who registered 10 strikeouts. Bayport moves on to play No. 5 Miller Place or No. 4 East Hampton Friday.
SWR, after having gone 17-2 in the regular season, bows out, having lost both of its playoff games in the double-elimination tournament. The day before the Wildcats were beaten by No. 3 Mount Sinai, 6-2. In that game, SWR faced another tough pitcher in Chris Batuyios, who had eight strikeouts.
“Both teams have really good pitching,” SWR third baseman Vincent LaRose said. “Both good starters. We couldn’t even get into their bullpen, so that was a struggle.”
When SWR’s 16th league title (and fourth in eight years) was mentioned after Thursday’s game, catcher Liam Bowes said, “It’s nice to have that, but to lose two straight like this is far from what I thought we were gonna do and what I hoped we would do.”
LaRose was clearly disappointed. Asked to assess the season, he said: “It was good. I mean, not successful in the end, but we had a good season. A lot of good guys on this team, so it was fun, but obviously in the end it didn’t matter what our record was.”
What mattered were Bayport’s busy bats. As a team, Bayport batted 15-for-36 in the game. The top third of its batting order was particularly productive, cranking out seven hits and driving in five runs. Trey McGowan went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Stemmler knocked in a run and Brady Clark batted in two runs in two-hit games for both of them.
If that wasn’t enough, there was more production further down the lineup. Logan Robertson, the No. 8 batter, went 3-for-3, with two RBIs and a walk. Ryan Costa had a pair of hits.
And then there was Stemmler’s pitching. He scattered six hits and walked one. SWR’s only run off him came in the fourth inning when Billy Steele led off by smacking a home run to dead centerfield, just to the left of a 320-foot sign. It was his second homer of the year.
“I was definitely a little surprised by their hitting,” Bowes said. “I don’t think they hit that well when we faced them earlier on, but you know, pitching, got those strikes. They threw strikes. The kid made good pitches, filled up the strike zone. Usually that’s the team that wins.”
The score was 7-0 by the third inning.
Bowes, one of 10 SWR seniors, knows the playoffs are a different animal. Regular-season successes aside, the postseason brings a different intensity. “You know you’re gonna get better competition than you got in the regular season,” he said.
SWR coach Kevin Willi said he had told his players the playoffs are a new season. “We’re 0 and 0, and all the things and all the accomplishments we had during the season are wiped clean, and everybody starts fresh,” he said. “Having a bye was an advantage, but you know, we got to execute. It seemed like we just couldn’t get anything going, and it’s a testament to the pitchers.
“And Liam Stemmler did a great job today, really did. I mean, we hadn’t faced him during the three-game series, not at all. He never pitched against us and you know, we kind of knew about him, but again, I think that mound and his arm angle and his fastball, he was 82, 83 [mph], but it looked like 87, 88 coming out because he’s a big kid striding home.”
And then the Wildcats headed off to their bus for the drive home. Before leaving the field, Bowes acknowledged the talent SWR has. He said, “This is just a good group we had and it’s a shame it ended so soon.”