North Shore engaged in what it hopes isn't its final dogpile of the 2015 season.
When Nick Lucchese walked to the mound in the seventh inning, he told himself to just throw strikes. The result: strikeout, strikeout, single, strikeout. He threw his glove in the air and was tackled by his teammates after North Shore advanced to the Nassau Class A baseball finals.
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A similar situation occurred last season in a semifinal. And the same opponent awaits the Vikings.
Third-seeded North Shore beat seventh-seeded Plainedge, 5-3, on Thursday in a winner-take-all Game 3 to advance to the championship round. The Vikings will play top-seeded Division at noon on Saturday at Farmingdale State in a best-of-three rematch of last season's final.
"Last year was the worst feeling," senior William Bianco said. "We saw Division on the dogpile. We watched the video of the game. We want them this year, though."
North Shore (21-4) struck first in the second on a single by Frank Castiglione that drove in Matt Reali. The Vikings added two runs in the third on an RBI double by Thomas Aufiero and Lucchese's steal of home as Plainedge tried to throw a runner out at second.
North Shore made it 5-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Reali and Liam Kearney.
But Plainedge (18-8) wasn't done.
North Shore's Theo Drivas allowed no runs and five hits through five innings before Plainedge's Ryan McGrane doubled and scored on an error in the sixth. North Shore coach Scott Lineman then walked to the mound and preached the same message he's been giving his team all season: confidence. And with that, to close the game, he turned to one of the players on the field with an abundance of confidence: Lucchese.
"It was over," Aufiero said. "I knew Nick would close it out."
No. 3 hitter Jimmy Mendyk hit an RBI double, No. 4 hitter Anthony Pugliese reached on an error and Richie Whalen's sacrifice fly brought Plainedge to within 5-3 with only one out. Lucchese then recorded a double play to escape the inning.
"We knew that it wasn't going to be easy," Lineman said. "We knew they were going to try to come back and get runners on base, and they did, and it wasn't easy, but we always preach confidence."
That confidence will prove paramount against Division.
"It feels great, but we know we are not done yet," Bianco said. "We haven't accomplished our goal. Once we win the next couple of games to win counties, then we'll be satisfied."
Lucchese echoed that. "We're fired up for a rematch," he said. "We are ready to play. We want it bad."