Shoreham baseball players celebrate their county championship victory over Sayville....

Shoreham baseball players celebrate their county championship victory over Sayville. (June 2, 2011) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Jonathan Criscito would be the first to admit he doesn't run well. But when Ryan McAlary lifted a fly ball to short rightfield with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and Criscito at third Thursday, the senior catcher knew he'd need all the speed he could muster.

The race to a championship was on.

"I'm very slow, like a turtle," Criscito said jokingly. "But there was no way they were throwing me out on the play."

Criscito went back to third to tag as rightfielder Joe Kacinski settled under the fly. Kacinski made the catch and a strong, one-hop throw to catcher Michael Hewson -- and Criscito dived headfirst behind Hewson's attempted tag, scoring the winning run as Shoreham-Wading River edged Sayville, 8-7, to capture the Suffolk Class A baseball championship.

The celebration was on as the Wildcats won the school's seventh county title. "We brought up seven sophomores in 2009 and they gained valuable experience," SWR coach Sal Mignano said. "And we went on a good playoff run last year. And the intent was to win a county title in 2011."

The dramatic ending came after Sayville battled back from two three-run deficits and Shoreham rallied from a two-run deficit in the eighth.

SWR righty Mike O'Reilly flirted with perfection for the first five innings, retiring the first 15 batters of the game, including five by strikeout.

He received a three-run cushion when the Wildcats strung together four straight hits and a sacrifice fly in the third for a 3-0 lead. McAlary (three hits) led off with a double and scored on Andrew Nicchi's single. Matt Kneisel singled Nicchi to third and O'Reilly drilled an RBI single to make it 2-0 before Danny Luppens lifted a sacrifice fly.

Kacinski led off the Sayville sixth with a long double off the base of the fence in left-center to break up the no-hit bid. After Tom Hannan's one-out infield single, Tom Dieckhoff lined a double just inside the bag down the rightfield line for a two-run double to make it 3-2.

McAlary drilled a two-run homer in the sixth to make it 5-2 to the delight of the standing-room-only bleacher section in leftfield. "We went to watch boys lacrosse win the county title last night and they came to support us," McAlary said. "It's great school spirit."

But Dieckhoff had another two-run double as Sayville scored three in the seventh to tie it at 5 and force extra innings.

Sayville's Rich Millwater slammed a two-run homer in the eighth for a 7-5 lead, but SWR answered with O'Reilly's two-run single to tie it at 7.

"I got a 3-1 fastball and went the other way with it," O'Reilly said. "I knew we'd come back."