Sean Jost is used to being a starting pitcher. The Smithtown West senior has been one of the stalwarts for the team for a number of years and has taken the ball in some big games during his high school career.
On Saturday, though, he found himself in a slightly different role.
He was the re-starting pitcher.
In a Class AA elimination playoff game that began on Friday afternoon but was halted by the combination of rain, lightning and darkness in the top of the third, Jost allowed one run while tossing the final five innings of West’s 8-4 victory over top-seeded Connetquot.
Almost 21 hours after the contest was scheduled to begin, it was he who, appropriately, was mobbed on the mound by teammates celebrating the upset victory after he dropped a curveball in for the final strikeout.
“He wanted the ball (on Friday) but he had just pitched for us on Tuesday,” West coach Al Nucci said of Jost’s 90-pitch effort in a loss to Smithtown East that had landed West in the loser’s bracket. “I didn’t want to bring him back on three days…. (The rain) got Sean an extra night’s rest and he came out and threw strikes.”
On the bus ride back from Connetquot on Friday night, the pause button pushed on the game, Nucci told Jost he would be pitching once the skies cleared on Saturday. Jost, though, had other things on his mind.
He was at bat when the Friday action came to a stop. West had just scored to take a 4-3 lead with two outs in the top of the third and Jost was up with the bases loaded. The first pitch was a ball and the soggy, squinting Jost said all he could see of it was a shadow.
The game was called at that point and when the action began on Saturday Jost was back in the batter’s box, already with an 0-1 count on him, ready to resume his at bat.
He said he spent the hours between the action thinking more about that opportunity than the one he was getting on the mound.
“The pitching, I know I’m good with that, so it was in the back of my mind, but that was a big at bat,” he said.
Jost worked an RBI walk off Connetquot’s Dylan Thomasson who, like him, had spent the night in a bizarre state knowing he would be inheriting the game from Friday’s starter, Ryan Waring. That gave West a 5-3 lead.
Connetquot closed to 5-4 in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Erick Duignan which set up a fourth inning that truly decided the contest.
In the top of the inning, after two singles and a wild pitch gave West runners on second and third, Josh DiBlanda, who had been sidelined earlier in the week with the flu, hit a two-run single up the middle to extend the lead to 7-4.
In the bottom of the fourth Connetquot had the bases loaded and no outs. Jost coerced an infield pop up, catcher Nick Esposito picked runner Rob Page off at third, and a ground ball to second got West out of the jam without a run allowed.
“I looked over at my third baseman (Adam Ginsberg) and he gave me the nod that the kid was taking a big lead over there and I got the pitch and it was perfect spot for me to transition and throw it down to third,” Esposito said.
The pickoff was a legitimately questionable call, but Connetquot didn’t have another runner reach third again until the bottom of the seventh. By then Max Hurley had knocked in an insurance run for West on a pinch-hit single to make it a four-run game.
“Our bats didn’t do the job,” Connetquot coach Rob Burger said. The Thunderbirds managed just five hits over the two-day game and their 20-win season ended much earlier than expected… even if the actual two-day game took much longer than anyone anticipated.
West, meanwhile, will continue on. And Jost?
“He has a good feeling going on right now in his heart and his body and his mind,” Nucci said. “He’s pitched some big games for us and right now he has an opportunity to pitch again potentially.”
At this point, wins or weather are the only things that can make that happen.