Derek Hirsch approaches every at-bat the same way. He swings with conviction.
"I live to swing a baseball bat," Hirsch said. "It's what I love to do."
Hirsch walked to the batter's box in the bottom of the 10th inning with the East Coast Conference championship on the line. A two-run home run in the top of the ninth by Dowling's RJ Going forced extra innings and here was Hirsch on center stage.
With runners on first and second and no out, Hirsch, a St. Dominic graduate from Melville, wasted no time determining the outcome of this one. He drilled a run-scoring walk-off double off the left-centerfield fence some 370 feet from where he made contact and St. Thomas Aquinas edged Dowling, 4-3, Saturday to capture the school's second straight East Coast Conference title.
As soon as Hirsch touched second base, he fired his helmet into the air, and turned to greet more than 30 teammates charging onto the field.
"It was an elevated fastball right where I like it -- up and in," said Hirsch, who was named the tournament MVP. "And I drilled it. Oh yeah, it felt so good."
Hirsch, an ECC first-team selection, never considered bunt- ing the runners over into scoring position. "I don't bunt," Hirsch said. "My job is to hit."
The exciting end punctuated the herculean effort of Aquinas starting pitcher C.J. Ferriggi, a Kellenberg graduate from Bellmore. "Without C.J., my hit would not have been possible," Hirsch said. "He gave us a chance."
Ferriggi, in his first start in three years, dominated a potent Dowling lineup. The senior righty, who set the saves record in the ECC with nine this season, was called on to start Saturday's title game after Aquinas needed lefty Nick May to close out the 12-4 win over Dowling earlier. May threw five innings of three-hit ball for the win and was unavailable.
"I asked for the ball," Ferriggi said. "I wanted the start and they knew I was going to give them everything I had."
Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and with a commanding four-pitch repertoire, Ferriggi allowed six hits, struck out nine and walked two in 123 pitches. And here he was with one out and one on in the ninth inning when Dowling finally got him. Going battled through a nine-pitch at-bat before launching a 3-and-2 fastball for a two-run homer to left to make it 3-3.
"It was a great game," Ferriggi said. "And no one was going out without a fight."
Ferriggi, the ECC relief pitcher of the year, fanned the next two batters and walked off to a standing ovation. Aquinas (34-15), which won four games in a row out of the losers bracket, including two in a row Saturday over the Golden Lions, didn't score in the ninth, forcing extra frames.
Every superlative flowed after Ferriggi's performance. He retired 15 of 17 through the fourth through eighth innings.
"The guy is a champion, that's really all there is to it," Hirsch said. "He's the guy you want on the mound in every big spot. There is nothing that bothers him and he's a bulldog."
Dowling (33-15) led 1-0 before Aquinas' Stanley Susana slammed a one-out, two-run homer in the third and Nick Gargan added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-1.