BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - The five-hour bus ride home wasn't going to be much fun for Connetquot's baseball team.
The Thunderbirds squandered a two-run lead and fell to Mamaroneck, 4-2, Saturday in the state Class AA semifinal round at Union-Endicott High School. Mamaroneck scored two unearned runs in each of the fifth and seventh innings to pull out the win.
Connetquot finished 24-5.
The painful loss, nothing compared to recent deaths in two players' families, will subside in the coming days and the team will put the game in proper perspective.
"This has been the toughest two-week stretch of my 31 years coaching," Connetquot coach Bob Ambrosini said. "This team has been through a lot of adversity. When the hurt is over, we'll look back and see what we accomplished. Today, we didn't play good defense and it cost us the game."
Connetquot senior Travis Bruinsma, who led Long Island with 13 wins, squared off with Mamaroneck's highly-regarded lefthander Kumar Nambiar, who is headed to Yale. Bruinsma and Nambiar dominated for three scoreless innings.
The T-Birds opened a 2-0 lead in the fourth after Brandon Morse drilled a run-scoring double to plate Dave Brehm, and Aaron Gagliano added a single to score Morse. The T-Birds threatened to blow it open after Zach White reached on an error to put runners at first and third with one out.
Instead, in what was the turning point of the game, Cole Clark's attempted squeeze bunt went awry and Gagliano was tagged out at the plate for the second out and pinch-runner John Quinn was picked off second for an inning-ending double play.
Mamaroneck took advantage of three infield errors to tie it at 2 in the fifth. The Tigers loaded the bases and could have taken the lead but Bruinsma induced an inning-ending fly ball to Gagliano in left.
Mamaroneck added two unearned runs in the seventh for the 4-2 lead before Nambiar closed out the T-Birds. Nambiar struck out seven and retired the final nine hitters in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
"He was the difference," Brehm said. "He wasn't overpowering but he was effective."
Senior John Hengge, whose father, Walt Hengge, died suddenly during the T-Birds' playoff run, had been scheduled to start the final.
"We've been through hell losing two family members in the past two weeks," he said. "And we've stuck together because we're brothers for life. We'll get through this together too. It's just a tough way for it to end."