Redemption is such a beautiful thing. Calhoun's Alex Vargas experienced the absolute high and low of a baseball game in the span of about 15 minutes.
Vargas came on in relief in the top of the ninth inning of the Long Island Class AA championship game Tuesday and allowed two runs against a Connetquot lineup that had been on fire throughout the playoffs. He was on the hook for the loss.
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When the top half of the inning ended, all Vargas could think about was one last chance to redeem himself in the home half. But for that to happen, he was going to need some help from his teammates. Vargas was slated to bat sixth.
"I just needed a shot," Vargas said. "I couldn't let it end this way."
"I was looking fastball all the way," he said.
Vargas lined the first fastball from reliever Brian McKean over the head of leftfielder Sam Huntington to score Murphy and Goldberg as Calhoun erased the two-run ninth-inning deficit for a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Connetquot before a standing-room-only crowd at Farmingdale State College.
"You just had to believe that we weren't going down easy," Vargas said. "We have too much depth on our bench and we all pull for one another."
Vargas' winning hit stole the spotlight from Connetquot's John Fiederlein, who keyed the Thunderbirds' two-run rally in the top of the ninth inning for the 5-3 lead. Fiederlein lined a run-scoring single to rightfield to score Casey Baker and make it 4-3 before Justin Scala scored on a Steve Schmitt fielder's choice.
"Our kids have that special bond and battle to the end," said Calhoun coach Joe Corea, in his 41st year. "They are so resilient."
This one was all about the starting pitching. Connetquot starter James Higgins was masterful, allowing two hits and striking out three in six innings. Calhoun starter Frank Trimarco went eight innings and gave up nine hits and struck out nine.
"That's the best hitting team we've seen this season," Trimarco said. "They're aggressive and I didn't have my best stuff. One count went like 16 pitches before I got him out."
Calhoun (23-3) jumped on top with a two-run first inning as Tom Viverito lined a two-run triple into the rightfield corner. Connetquot responded in the top of the second when Baker grounded a two-run single on an 0-and-2 pitch into rightfield for a two-run single. Baker fouled off four pitches before the big hit. He finished with three hits in five at-bats.
With the score tied at 2, Connetquot forged the lead in the third when Mike Rizzitello singled, stole second and scored on Huntington's two-out single. The Colts tied it with an unearned run in the fourth, setting the stage for extra innings and Vargas' big hit.
"It feels so good right now," Vargas said. "To get that chance and deliver . . . wow."