East Rockaway’s hopes of capturing a Long Island Class C baseball championship seemed in doubt Thursday afternoon, trailing Pierson/Bridgehampton by two runs with two outs in the top of the seventh.
But doubt didn’t seem to be in the vocabulary of East Rockaway catcher Matt Perri.
“We never give up, we fight to the last out,” Perri said. “It’s what we have been doing all season long.”
After a two-out, RBI single by Jon Starkman put the Rocks within a run, Perri stepped to the plate with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first.
After falling behind in the count 0-and-2, the sophomore laced a double into the left-centerfield gap to drive in Dylan Henshaw and a hustling Starkman from first to give East Rockaway a one-run lead, one that never was relinquished.
Starting pitcher Stefano Cilluffo struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning to secure a 5-4 win for the Rocks at St. Joseph’s College Athletic Complex in Patchogue.
The win gave East Rockaway its second Long Island Class C title in the past three seasons.
“It was my biggest spot yet, the world kind of stopped for a little bit,” Perri said. “When I realized he scored from first, it was crazy. I don’t know . . . I don’t know how to put it really.”
Starkman went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and a stolen base, and Perri finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Before the bottom of the seventh, East Rockaway coach James Hickey pulled Cilluffo aside.
“He asked me if I felt good and was composed,” Cilluffo said. “I told him that ‘it’s over and I want this inning right now,’ and I came out and got the work done.”
Cilluffo allowed no earned runs, four hits and two walks and struck out 11, including the final four batters, to earn the win. Tyler LaBorne pitched six innings, allowing one earned run, three hits and five walks and struck out four in a no-decision for the Whalers (21-3).
“The seventh inning was huge to not even give them a chance,” Hickey said. “They have good team speed if they get a guy on. We struggled defending the bunt a little bit today and that could have turned into a completely different inning.”
The Rocks (14-6) will face Section 9 champion Pine Plains at Cantine Field in Saugerties in Saturday’s state regional final.