Nick Arnold's arm, solid defense lift West Islip to its first LI Class AA title
It was edge-of-your-seat drama. Massapequa and West Islip were locked in a battle to the final out in the Long Island Class AA baseball championship game Sunday.
"I could barely breathe in the outfield," West Islip's Sam Ilario said. "The intensity, the huge crowd, it was insane."
Trailing by a run, Massapequa had runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning as West Islip starter Nick Arnold attempted to close out the biggest win of his career.
Mike Wall drilled a grounder at second baseman Brendan Emigholz, who fired to first for the final out as West Islip held on for a 2-1 win and the school's first L.I. Class AA baseball title.
"I knew it was over because our defense has been awesome all season and Brendan is just automatic," said Arnold, who threw a six-hitter and improved to 9-1. "I took a breath before the final pitch, kept my composure and pounded the zone."
"Nick's our leader and a bulldog out there," West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. "We've played solid defense all season."
West Islip (21-5) will meet Victor of Rochester in a state Class AA semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday at Maine-Endwell High School in Binghamton.
The game captivated the more than 2,300 fans who packed the Farmingdale State College bleachers to capacity and rimmed the outfield fence, standing as many as three deep.
The 1-2 punch of Ilario and Matt Klein gave West Islip a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Ilario lined an 0-and-1 pitch into the right-centerfield gap for a leadoff triple before scoring on Klein's single. After Brent Baynon singled, Massapequa starter Alex Cosenza induced a 1-6-3 double play, but Sal Vittorio lined a single to left to make it 2-0.
Massapequa (18-8-1) finally got to Arnold in the fourth. Jesse Nakashian drilled a triple to deep left-center and, with the infield in, scored on Matt Diesel's grounder to second to make it 2-1.
Ryan Warner relieved Cosenza in the sixth and was greeted by Baynon's long double to center. Pinch runner Matt Tonn advanced to third on a sacrifice but was stranded there as Warner got a strikeout and a groundout.
In the bottom of the sixth, Massapequa got a one-out single from Bobby Honeyman, but West Islip turned its second double play of the game. Third baseman Louie Antos grabbed Nakashian's grounder and relayed to Emigholz, who fired to James Kory at first to complete the inning-ending gem.
"Our infield has been tight all season," Klein said. "And it showed tonight. It was championship-caliber."