Billy Bianco had an outstanding season for North Shore. He batted .540 in the two-hole, scored 22 runs and drove in 14 to lead the Vikings to the Nassau Class A final. His selection for Monday night 's Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge was icing on a dream season.
"I just wanted to come out and play to my ability,'' said Bianco, who will study finance at Villanova. "I was surrounded by all these Division I athletes who are going to play college baseball. I felt overmatched at first, but I calmed down during the infield-outfield pregame.''
Bianco's two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Nassau All-Stars to a 3-1 win over the Suffolk All-Stars in the 11th Grand Slam Challenge before 550 fans at Farmingdale State College.
"I battled in the at-bat,'' said Bianco, who earned the MVP award. "I fouled off three good pitches before getting the hit. It was an awesome feeling.''
Bianco lined a 2-and-2 pitch into centerfield to drive in Beau O'Connell of Chaminade and Anthony Papa of Division, and the rest was left to a dominant pitching staff, which held Suffolk to one hit in the final five innings. St. Dominic righthander Reiss Knehr earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Papa, who earned Nassau's Diamond Award as the county's best player, greeted Connetquot's Travis Bruinsma with a line-drive triple into the right-centerfield gap to lead off the fifth. Papa scored when Wheatley's Andrew Hastings lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
"Coach [Chris Sipp] told me the pitcher had a great curveball, and I decided I wouldn't let him get to use it,'' Papa said. "I went up there thinking first-pitch fastball because it's an all-star game and he wants to light up the gun like everyone else. You have to be aggressive and have fun in these games. I'm definitely not that guy going up there looking for a walk.''
Papa, who was named the game's offensive MVP, also was in the middle of Nassau's go-ahead rally in the sixth, scoring on Bianco's hit.
Suffolk's run came in the first inning. Smithtown East shortstop Pat Lagravinese lined a one-out single the opposite way to leftfield, the first of his two hits. He came around to score on a fielder's choice and a throwing error for the 1-0 lead.
Suffolk squandered two huge scoring opportunities in the fourth and seventh innings, leaving the bases loaded both times.
St. John the Baptist righty Andrew Mundy earned the pitching MVP award for striking out the side in the third inning.
"I went out and let it go for an inning,'' Mundy said. "When it's one inning, you just reach back and fire.''