Bayport-Blue Point likes to kick it old school. That goes for the early '90s hip-hop the players blasted from a boom box in celebration, and is certainly evident in their approach to baseball.
Refuting modern sabermetrics somewhat, the Phantoms hit one home run all season . . . and racked up a bunch of plaques. Enough little things, even on a big stage, can add up to something grand.
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"Our stats won't dazzle anyone," coach Jim Moccio said, "but we pitch well and man, do we put pressure on a defense."
The Phantoms successfully small-balled their way to the big dance, beating Clarke, 4-1, Tuesday to capture the Long Island Class A championship and earn their first trip to the state tournament since 2004.
Jack Piekos was masterful on the mound, and his offense dinked-n-dunked (and lucked) its way to four runs in the fifth as Bayport-Blue Point (25-0) became the first Suffolk team to go undefeated and win the county and L.I. titles since Whitman in 1975.
“All year, we’ve been telling ourselves, ‘It’s just another game,’” second baseman Matt White said. "There were some nerves in this one, but we just stayed calm and got back to basics."
Really, the Phantoms never stray from basics. Without much offensive thump, they've had to rely on fundamentals. But with that record, it's fine with them.
They'll face Queensbury or Cortland in the state semifinals Saturday in Binghamton.
Matt McKinnon led off the fifth with a single up the middle, moved to second on a bunt and later scored on an error to give BBP a 1-0 lead. Ryan Dollop followed with an infield single and Chris Brewer walked to load the bases. Then small ball met fortune. Ryan Smith squared for a suicide squeeze and the bunted ball landed between the pitcher and charging third baseman for an RBI single.
"The bunt is a huge part of our offense," said Smith, who was 3-for-4 with a stolen base. “We were getting hits earlier and couldn’t score, so sometimes you just have to do the little things.”
Dollop and Brewer scored on a throwing error to give the Phantoms a 4-0 lead. Matt Seelinger allowed eight hits and struck out six for Clarke (22-6).
Meanwhile, Piekos held a potent Rams lineup in check. The lefty gave up three hits and two walks and struck out nine in a complete game. He overpowered early, recording his first four strikeouts on swings and misses at high fastballs.
Piekos tired in the sixth and allowed a double to Jessie Russo and an RBI single to John Fogarty, "But I had to gut it out for my seniors," the junior said. "No way I wasn't finishing." He escaped further trouble and retired the side in the seventh.
Apparently, kids dig the small ball.
"If we could do it another way, we would, but that's not our strength," Moccio said of the scrappy offense. "But these kids have bought in and it's gotten us all the way here."
Proof positive that you don't have to go yard to go far.