He is now known as Big Game James in West Islip. Senior James Kory is the first pitcher in Suffolk Class AA history to earn the win in two championship games.
Kory allowed two hits and struck out seven through six innings as West Islip built a 6-1 lead and went on for a 6-4 win over Northport to claim the Suffolk AA title. It was the Lions’ second crown in three years.
Kory was only a sophomore when he earned the win in West Islip’s 5-0 victory over Half Hollow Hills West to claim the title in 2014.
For his efforts, Kory was named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
“He’s a big game pitcher and we were fully confident that he’d go out there and give us a championship effort,” West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. “I saw him during the day in school and he said, ‘Coach, I got this.’ That’s why I knew saving him for the third game of the series was a good idea.”
Kory’s big game experience paid off. He retired 16 of 17 batters through the sixth inning. He’d allowed only two hits and struck out seven with no walks through six frames.
“I felt great and we were playing great defense,” Kory said. “I missed a few spots in the seventh and they’re a solid hitting team that doesn’t give up.”
Kory tired in the seventh when Northport touched him for four hits and three runs and left with two outs and a runner on first. Reliever Ray Weber retired the last batter for the save.
“Weber and Kory were our 1-2 pitching punch all year,” Rush said. “Kory got the save in Game 1 of the championship series when he came in with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. So today Weber returned the favor.”
The righthanded Kory battled through nagging injuries all season and finished with a 8-0 record and one save.
“We’re going to another Long Island championship and I’m fired up for that,” Kory said. “My grandpa comes to every one of my games and he says it’s better than watching the Yankees. I love that.”
Kory emerged as one of Long Island’s top pitchers as a sophomore when he went 9-0 as the Lions captured the Long Island Class AA title. He laughs when asked about the key to his success.
“My school’s athletic trainer has kept me on the field,” Kory said. “Without Kevin [Kilkenny] who knows? I’ve had a few minor injuries and I go to see him all the time.”
Kilkenny said Kory definitely plays the game as hard as anyone and keeps the training staff very busy.
“Let’s see he’s had an ankle strain, calf strain, hip flexor strain, hamstring strain and hyperextended the thumb on non-throwing hand,” said Kilkenny, who’s been at the school for eight years. “I think big James just loves the attention. He’s a great kid.”
And he’s a big-game winner also.