BBP baseball: Unbeaten Phantoms join elite company
Gregg SarraGregg Sarra
Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer.
There is no topping a perfect season. No one-upping perfection.
And no one ever did it better in Suffolk County than the Bayport-Blue Point baseball team, which had one of the greatest single-season runs in Long Island history.
The Phantoms reeled off 27 straight wins on the way to the Class A state championship. They were the first team to finish unbeaten and untied in the past 64 years of Suffolk high school baseball.
"It's quite an achievement,'' said Bayport-Blue coach Jim Moccio. "You always strive for an undefeated record but in the back of your mind you know so many different things can factor into a game and change the outcome.''
The last Suffolk Class A baseball team to go undefeated and untied was Huntington, in 1949. The Blue Devils won the league title and then beat East Hampton and South Huntington to claim the county Class A crown, finishing 14-0.
The road to perfection for Huntington was much shorter as the season ended with the Suffolk crown, without needing to move on to the Long Island or state championship games. For Bayport the road was much longer and more difficult.
"Obviously, they had a great team to win every game,'' said Bayport junior lefty Jack Piekos. "But we had to win our county, the Long Island crown and go upstate and win two games in the state tournament. It just felt like we kept gaining more and more confidence.''
Bayport-Blue Point began to chase perfection after finishing the regular season in League VI with a 20-0 record. The Phantoms will look back at a three-game sweep of Glenn in which they outscored the Knights by a total of only four runs as the key to this improbable march.
In that series, the Phantoms' starting rotation of Piekos, Ryan Dollop and Chris Brewer set the tone for winning close games, including two one-run victories.
"We always found a way to win,'' Moccio said. "We executed when we had to and we played small ball to manufacture runs. Our pitching and defense was excellent."
The Phantoms won 27 in a row and hit only one home run this season. They had two one-run wins and four other games decided by a two-run margin. The challenge midway through the season wasn't just performing at an optimal level on the field but being mentally focused as well.
"The pressure never really became an issue,'' Moccio said. "These guys were loose and enjoying the ride. There was more of a sense of motivation and a coming together of the personnel to achieve a team goal.''
A real shot at a perfect record started to become a distinct possibility after the Phantoms beat perennial powerhouse Shoreham-Wading Riv- er for the fourth time in a season. The Maryland-bound Piekos edged Miami-bound righty Keven Pimentel in a 2-0 pitcher's duel on May 7. Piekos, an 11-game winner this year, fired a one-hitter and struck out 11.
"Jack always seemed to give us what we needed in the big spot,'' Moccio said. "He rises to the competition and meets the challenge.''
Said Piekos, "When the defense is so good like ours, you can just throw strikes and let them make the plays.''
The win catapulted the Phantoms into the playoffs where Piekos opened the first round by throwing a no-hitter in a 2-0 win over Rocky Point.
"We had some breaks go our way and we made some of our own breaks,'' said Moccio. "We're going to let this soak in and enjoy it as long as we can.''
Bayport is now in the elite company of three Nassau teams that also achieved the unthinkable. MacArthur (1994, Class B), Division (1996, Class B) and Massapequa (2006, Class AA) all earned their respective state titles and finished with 29-0 records.
So can there be an encore?
"Ahhh, let's just win the opener next year and we'll go from there,'' laughed Moccio.
His chances are very good -- he'll have Piekos back on the mound.