Calhoun pitcher Joey Christopher delivers to the plate against Massapequa....

Calhoun pitcher Joey Christopher delivers to the plate against Massapequa. (Apr. 19, 2010) Credit: George A. Faella

Joe Saladino probably slept comfortably last night after living a baseball player's dream.

With two outs and one on in the top of the seventh inning and his team trailing by a run, Calhoun's No. 9 hitter drove a 3-and-2 fastball to deep right-centerfield.

As Massapequa rightfielder Paul Tarantino hustled after the ball, Saladino - representing the go-ahead run - raced around the bases and was waved home. As the crowd roared, he dived headfirst into the plate, reaching his left hand across the sandy dish before catcher John Cerulli could apply the tag.

The homer, the first of Saladino's career, gave Calhoun a thrilling 2-1 victory over four-time defending Long Island Class AA champion Massapequa in a Nassau Conference AA-I game.

"You should have seen his eyes when I waved him home," Calhoun coach Joe Correa said. "He couldn't believe he was going home. But we were going for it right there."

Saladino, who was mobbed by teammates, said, "I was surprised because I thought he'd stop me."

The home run spoiled a terrific effort by Massapequa righthander Joe Lipari, who was one strike away from a shutout. Lipari scattered six hits and induced 10 groundouts as the Chiefs' defense performed flawlessly.

"He left that pitch up in the zone," Massapequa coach Tom Sheedy said. "But he pitched very well and stayed in on the hitters' hands and forced a lot of ground balls. This conference is very tight and every team is competitive. This was a tough one to lose. We have to come back [today] at their place and win one."

The Colts' comeback wasn't complete until Joe Christopher set down the Chiefs in the bottom of the seventh. With runners at first and second, he induced Kevin Flecker to ground to shortstop Ryan Kass, who flipped to second for the final out. "That's the first time we've beaten Massapequa in a long time," said Kass, a three-year starter. "That's a big win."

Massapequa, the benchmark for all Class AA teams on Long Island for the previous four years, eliminated Calhoun in last year's playoffs.

Christopher struck out 10, allowed seven hits and hit a batter. "My two-seamer had good bite and I kept moving my spots to keep the hitters off balance," he said. "We played good defense and that was the key."

Christopher was touched for a run in the fourth. Rob Veltre singled and scored when pinch hitter Mike Marocchi grounded a one-out single to right.

With hard-throwing ace Tyler Thornton, who has committed to James Madison, sidelined for the season, the Colts have rallied behind each other to stay in the hunt for the Class AA crown.

"We're getting contributions from everyone," said Correa, who has coached for 41 years.

Said Christopher, "This will boost our confidence. We have some momentum and some swagger and we'll need that in a tough conference. Imagine if we only had Thornton healthy."

Monday, the dreaming was left to Saladino, the kid in the nine hole.

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