Joe Grillo was given the ball in a Suffolk Class A elimination game. Wait, what?
Yes, Joe Grillo, a 15-year-old sophomore, who just recently returned from a three-week illness, was asked to prolong the Rocky Point baseball season.
“There are guys you know live for the big moment and the pressure doesn’t bother them,” said Rocky Point coach Andy Aschettino. “Joe Grillo is that guy. No spot is too big for him. He likes the spotlight at a young age.”
Grillo responded in a big way. The lefthander allowed one earned run in seven innings, hit the first homerun of his varsity career, and added a two-run double in the 12th inning to key a four-run rally as Rocky Point outlasted Shoreham-Wading River, 7-3, in a Suffolk Class A playoff game before a packed house of more than 900 fans.
Chris Caswell’s RBI single broke the tie at 2 before Grillo lined a double down the right field line to make it 6-3 in the 12th.
Rocky Point (15-9) will host Mount Sinai in the Class A final best of three series at 4 p.m.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Grillo said. “I missed a lot of time when I was sick and I couldn’t wait to come back. This was a great team win.”
Shoreham-Wading River (19-6) took a 1-0 lead when Alex Bettenhauser lined a run-scoring single in the fourth.
That lead was short-lived. Grillo led off the top of the fifth when he launched a 91 mph fastball for a solo homerun off Notre-Dame bound Brian Morrell.
“It was in and I got my hands on it,” Grillo said.
Rocky Point forged a 2-1 lead without the benefit of a hit in the eighth inning. Two walks, two wild pitches and a throwing error handed the Eagles a 2-1 lead against Morrell.
Shoreham tied it again, this time on a Chris Sperruzzi single to plate Vincent Uzzi to make it 2-2.
“Every pitch mattered, I’m exhausted,” Aschettino said. “This was unbelievable.”
Morrell exited after 8 innings, 121 pitches, 10 strikeouts, five hits, three walks and two earned runs.
Rocky Point took the lead again in the ninth. Grillo walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dan Black and scored when Zach Perri lined a ground-rule double to make it 3-2.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Morrell crushed a 400-foot solo homerun, his Long-Island leading 12th of the year, to tie it at 3.
“He’s a spectacular player,” Aschettino said. “We didn’t put the pitch where we wanted it. And he made us pay for it.”
Morrell wouldn’t get another chance to send Rocky Point home. In a gutsy coaching move, Aschettino orded reliever James Weisman to walk Morrell and load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“I believed our guy would throw strikes and get the next batter out,” Aschettino said. “I wasn’t giving him another opportunity.”
Weisman got Miles Kelly on a pop to leftfield to end the threat.
The day belonged to Grillo, who allowed five hits, one earned run, walked five and struck out two and left after walking the leadoff batter in the bottom of the eighth with a 2-1 lead.
“Definitely my best day,” Grillo said.