Reliever Nick Auricchio earns win for Smithtown East
Stephen Woods Jr. had been untouchable in four appearances this season. The Half Hollow Hills East senior righthander had thrown consecutive no-hitters and allowed only two hits over in 23 innings.
Woods Jr. was looking to become Long Island's first high school pitcher to throw three consecutive no-hitters. He took the mound Tuesday as Hills East hosted Smithtown East in a battle for first place in Suffolk League III.
The no-hit bid lasted two batters. After Matt Kelly walked, Billy Noke bunted a high, inside fastball down the third- base line for a hit.
"We came in looking to put the bat on the ball and do whatever our coach needed for the win against a very good pitcher,'' Noke said. "It was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt, but I'll take the hit.''
Noke added an RBI double in the second inning and Smithtown East used a three-run fourth inning to propel it past Hills East, 6-5. Ryan Marti singled with two outs and scored what proved to be the winning run on an error in the fifth.
"We weren't thinking about being no-hit,'' Smithtown East coach Ken Klee said. "We were thinking about winning the game.''
The outcome left the teams tied for first place at 8-4.
Woods Jr. scattered five hits, walked three, struck out nine and allowed two earned runs in the loss. His fastball was consistently clocked at 91-92 mph.
"They're a good team and well coached,'' Woods Jr. said. "They were aggressive at the plate. We have them two more times this week.''
Trailing 2-0 after Noke's run-scoring double, Hills East took a short-lived 3-2 lead when Lou Sileno launched a three-run home run with one out in the third.
Smithtown East answered with three runs in the fourth, keyed by singles from Nick Auricchio and James Myers and two errors by the Thunderbirds.
"We had a few costly errors,'' Hills East coach Tim Belz said. "We had a big home run from Sileno and then we gave it right back with poor defense.''
Hills East had its chances to retake the lead but couldn't get the big hit. Smithtown's Dimitri Letass, who struck out five in the first two innings, was removed with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth.
Auricchio came in from shortstop and escaped with minimal damage, allowing only one runner to score. He gave up one hit and one run in four innings of work and picked up the win.
"Coach has confidence in me,'' Auricchio said. "I was hitting my spots, throwing first-pitch strikes and we played good defense.''