Wheatley had survived its previous three postseason games by squeaking out one-run victories, and through six innings of Tuesday's Long Island Class B baseball championship, it looked as if the Wildcats would have to claw their way through another nail-biter.
But then in the top of the seventh, things got a little easier.
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Leading by two entering the final inning, Wheatley put a 10-spot on the board thanks to some timely hitting and costly Southampton errors, as the Wildcats ran away with a 14-2 victory at Hauppauge.
Wheatley (17-8) earned its first Long Island championship since 1985, and will play in the southeast regional Class B final Wednesday against Spackenkill at Farmingdale State with a chance to reach the state semifinals.
"We knew we could hit and struggled early but eventually exploded," said Lambert Chu, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. "Our goal is to win states and I think we can do it."
Said Wheatley coach Paul Paino: "The last inning was a lot of fun. The rest of the game was like all of our other games -- stressful, but fun."
In the seventh, the Wildcats sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs before Southampton recorded an out. Andrew Tripi started the inning by reaching on an error and scored the first run of the frame on Andrew Hastings' single. Tripi also scored the 10th run of the inning after hitting the second of back-to-back two-run doubles with Justin Borczuk.
By the end of the inning, Wheatley had six hits, a stolen base and a walk, reached on four errors, including two off sacrifice bunt attempts, and grounded into a double play.
"We've had a couple of big innings like that and it usually goes the same way," Paino said. "We'll bunt, we'll steal a base and take advantage of some misplayed balls . . . and we play a nice combination of little ball and big ball."
Southampton (19-3) led 2-0 through four innings, as starter Wyatt Schmidt had a no-hitter through 42/3. But Wheatley starter Matt Rothstein helped his own cause with a double to break that up, and sparked a four-run fifth inning after three Southampton errors and a walk put Wheatley out in front 4-2.
"We always keep our heads in the game and we probably didn't realize we had no hits," Rothstein said. "I got up there with that double and pumped the whole dugout up and we kept hitting from there."
Schmidt allowed just one hit through six but was chased in the seventh.
"We had a few errors on their team that helped us out a little bit, but our bats definitely came alive," Rothstein said.
Rothstein pitched a complete game, allowing just one earned run, six hits, a walk and a hit batsman, with six strikeouts.
"It feels great. I had my whole team behind me and we put 14 runs on the board. That's unbelievable," Rothstein said. "It's unbelievable pitching for this team. We have the best bats on Long Island."