James Kory has been unbeatable this season. The sophomore righthander has become a rock in West Islip's starting rotation behind staff ace Nick Arnold.
Wednesday was no different as Kory retired the final batter on a grounder to second with the tying run at third base as West Islip edged Half Hollow Hills West, 2-1, to move into the Suffolk Class AA championship game. Kory pitched a three-hitter, struck out six and walked five to improve to 7-0.
West Islip (19-4) will meet the survivor of the losers' bracket in the double- elimination tournament next Wednesday. Hills West will play the winner of Thursday's Commack-Ward Melville game on Tuesday. "Kory has been a bulldog all season and nothing seems to bother him," West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. "He has tremendous composure for a young player. He challenges hitters and pounds the zone."
He hit pinch hitter Brice Dailey with a pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Dailey leaned in on an inside fastball, then stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Instead of it being Kory's undoing, it became another measure of his resilience.
"We have a great defense and that's who we are," Kory said.
The only hard-hit ball for the Colts came in the second inning when junior Owen McMenamy lined a two-out double to right-center to put runners on second and third. Kory struck out Mike Marino looking to end the threat.
"He was hitting his spots," catcher Sal Vittorio said, "and getting the big outs."
West Islip took a 2-0 lead when its offensive catalyst, shortstop Matt Klein, a .514 hitter this season, worked a one-out walk and move to second when Brent Baynon was hit by a pitch. After a walk to Kory loaded the bases, Vittorio drilled a line-drive, two-run single to rightfield.
"It was an outside pitch and I went with it," Vittorio said.
Hills West (20-4) cut the lead in half in the fifth. Ken Schiotis blooped a single, moved to second on a Nick Lombardi walk and scored when Tom DiGiorgi popped a one-out RBI double down the rightfield line to make it 2-1. Kory worked his way out of the jam with two consecutive pop-ups.
"We knew we had a lot of talent but not a lot of experience," Rush said of his eighth-seeded Lions. "To say we'd be in the county finals would have been a reach at the start of the season. But after seeing us come together and the way we play defense, I'm not surprised. We win games because we do a lot of things well."
And they have a nice 1-2 punch on the mound.