The final pitch was outside the strike zone and the Babylon players poured in from every base and the first base dugout to jump into a triumphant dogpile between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. It was, to say the least, a completely unexpected ending to Long Island’s Class B championship game.
Just minutes earlier, the Panthers quietly made their way to the dugout for a final turn at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. Seaford had managed to outlast the superlative pitching of Babylon righty Daniel Madsen and push three runs across in the top of the inning.
But the Vikings just couldn’t close it out. Babylon sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs with only one hit – Madsen’s game-tying two-run single with two out – to snatch a 6-5 victory at St. Joseph’s Gregg Alfano Field. The Panthers got men on base via four walks, a hit batter and a fielding error. Nicky Crone had the game-winning RBI on a two-out bases-loaded walk.
“We were definitely down after they scored three, but we just have that fighting mentality,” Madsen said. “This is a special group and I’m glad we did it.”
Babylon (23-1) is Long Island champion for the fifth time and first since 2012. The Panthers advance in the state tournament to the Southeast Regional final and will face Section I champion Albertus Magnus on Saturday at Purchase College for a trip upstate to the semifinals.
“We talked about just doing their job and passing the baton to the next guy – and they had discipline and did it,” Babylon coach Michael Birnbaum said. “We’d been in this spot before.”
Indeed the Panthers won the deciding Game 3 of the Suffolk B championship series against Center Moriches in a walk-off as well.
Babylon never led in the game until the end. Seaford (22-2) got a run-scoring double from Nick Apollo and a run-scoring single from Jason Berthel for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Madsen would settle in and pitch into the ninth before hitting the state-mandated 125-pitch limit in what became a no-decision.
He came out after allowing Billy Kind’s leadoff triple in the ninth, which led to the three-run rally. The Vikings loaded the bases on a pair of walks and scored on a Sean Costello sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and a throwing error for the 5-2 lead.
“Madsen’s a gamer – he’s not going to hand me the ball until the end of the game or the [pitch] count,” Birnbaum said. “And there’s a confidence we play with when he’s there.”
Costello and Apollo combined on eight innings of two-run pitching but after Babylon loaded the bases in the ninth against Apollo on an error, a walk and a hit batter, relief was summoned. Kind, the pitching hero of a 1-0 win over Wheatley last week for the Nassau title, was forced in to the tough spot with no wiggle room.
After a walk that brought in a run was followed by a popup, Madsen smacked his two-run single to center. “The hit felt scripted,” Madsen said. “It had to happen.”