Kyle O’Neill understood the strategy.
With second and third and one out in the bottom of the 11th inning Saturday, Hauppauge had to intentionally walk West Islip’s Jon Risedorf to create a force at every base. But O’Neill, the Lions’ No. 9 hitter, felt personally affronted that the Eagles would rather face him in a tie game than go after Risedorf. (Little did it matter that Risedorf had belted a solo home run in the fifth inning.)
“They were walking the bases loaded just to face me,” O’Neill said. “I got focused and put a good swing on it.”
O’Neill went with Tim Woodford’s outside fastball and laced a grounder down the first-base line and into rightfield. Pinch runner Stephen Pappas scored from third, and the Lions mobbed O’Neill in shallow rightfield.
In an elimination game that seemingly would not end, No. 2 West Islip beat No. 7 Hauppauge, 4-3, and earned a berth in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals against No. 3 Smithtown East.
“Honestly,” O’Neill said, “it’s probably one of the best feelings in my life.”
For five innings, the Lions (20-4) were in complete control. James Kory stroked an elevated 0-and-2 curveball for a two-run single in the first and Risedorf homered to lead off the fifth. In between, Albany commit Ray Weber cruised through Hauppauge’s lineup.
But the Eagles (18-7), who wound up losing by one run for the sixth time this season, refused to go home quietly. Billy Huber (3-for-5) led off the sixth by legging out an infield single and Kyle Wood walked. Matt Overton’s sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third for cleanup hitter Tyler Sanderson, who lined a two-run double into the right-centerfield gap and scored the tying run on a single by Devin Jenny (two hits).
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team’s effort,” Hauppauge coach Josh Gutes said. “Down 3-0 against a Division I arm, and we put three runs together like that. It was just incredible.”
Kory relieved Weber to start the seventh — one power arm replacing another. He allowed one hit in five innings, faced the minimum 15 batters and recorded six of his seven strikeouts on called third strikes. The two righthanders combined to strike out 13.
“I don’t think there’s many teams that can do what we did today,” West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. “We knew going into the season that was going to be our strength, those two guys.”
On the other side, Woodford kept West Islip off balance with his fastball, curveball and changeup. He threw 107 pitches in 10 1⁄3 innings, allowing eight hits.
“I’ve never seen a kid battle like that,” Rush said. “He didn’t double up pitches. Everything was different. He was phenomenal.”