Wheatley's state run ends in extra innings
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ENDICOTT, N.Y. - The magic had to wear off sometime.
Wheatley had won four of its previous five postseason games by one run, but in Saturday's state class B baseball semifinal, the tables were turned, with the Wildcats falling, 2-1, to Clinton, in eight innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, Clinton (20-5) rallied with two outs on an infield single, a walk, a controversial close call at third, and a walk-off single to center by Justin Jandke to end the game.
Wheatley (18-9) had won 11 consecutive games, and reached the state semifinal for the first time after winning its first Long Island championship since 1985, according to coach Paul Paino.
"Every game we've played has been like this for the last month and this is the first time it didn't turn out our way," Paino said. "It was a great baseball game, our pitcher showed a lot of guts but we could've used a little more hitting."
In the bottom of the eighth, Clinton's Mike Hayduk reached on a two-out infield single that deflected off Wheatley starter Matt Rothstein's glove and away from second baseman Andrew Tripi. After Hayduk stole second and Andrew Hobika walked, Hayduk took off for third and was called safe, which had Wheatley's bench up in arms.
Catcher Billy McLean's throw beat Hayduk to the bag but he slid under the tag. Jandke, a lefty, then inside-outed a 2-and-2 pitch to left-centerfield for the walk-off win.
"I thought I had him; that throw was right at his ankles and it's a bang-bang play," McLean said. "With a lefty up, you usually get that guy most of the time, so I was shocked by that call . . . It's definitely painful. We were pumped up and ready to win this game and it was close, so it's a sad way to see it end."
Wheatley didn't have a baserunner in the seventh or eighth innings, and couldn't provide much support for Rothstein, who scattered 10 hits and struck outnine as he battled through 7 2/3 innings on three days rest.
"I just went out there and thought I pitched the game of my life," Rothstein said. "We had some unbelievable plays in the field that kept us in the game and today, our bats were a little quiet . . . I was trying to get us to that one big inning we usually have but today, we didn't get it."
Wheatley got on the board first in the fifth with a two-out rally of its own. Dex Iannone got the Wildcats' first hit of the game off Clinton's Anthony Rizzo on a line drive to left, and Lambert Chu walked to put runners on first and second.
Rothstein then helped his own cause with a bloop single down the rightfield line that landed between three Clinton fielders and close to the foul line to bring home Iannone. Clinton argued that the ball was foul, but the umpires huddled and upheld the call.
"I can say it now, I thought that ball was foul, too," Rothstein said. "The umpire blew that call and then the one at third for us but that's baseball; umpires make mistakes so you just go with it. But after that hit, we were feeling confident. They only had a few hits off of me up to that point but we knew we needed more runs."
Wheatley threatened again in the sixth but couldn't score after McLean's double put runners on second and third with one out. Rizzo induced a foul-out and a groundout to get out of the inning, as he improved to 10-1 on the season while throwing just 91 pitches.
The sixth came back to haunt Wheatley, as Clinton answered in the bottom of the frame on Lenny Ortiz's one-out triple that scored Ian Foxton to tie the score.
Wheatley was the No. 3 seed in the Nassau class B playoffs but won seven consecutive postseason games to reach the state semifinals. It routed Southampton, 14-2, in the Long Island Class B final on Tuesday, and rallied for three runs in the seventh to walk off with a 3-2 win over Spackenkill on Wednesday in the Southeast Regional final.
"It doesn't get better than that," Paino said. "I couldn't be more proud of these guys. We obviously wanted to win a state championships but this was a great season and the best in Wheatley history."