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Nic Lombardi's catch snuffs West Islip rally and seals win for Hills West

Hills West's Nick Lombardi connects for double during

Hills West's Nick Lombardi connects for double during the Suffolk Class AA baseball final between West Islip and Half Hollow Hills West on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Credit: Alan J Schaefer

Nic Lombardi took off from inside the rightfield foul line and went all out. There was no other option. He had to make this play.

"I was going to dive right through the fence for it if I had to," Lombardi said. "I gave it literally all I had. I didn't care at that point."

Luckily for Lombardi, there wasn't a fence where he made his spectacular, backhanded grab of a flyball to end Game 1 of the Suffolk Class AA baseball finals and seal Half Hollow Hills West's 6-5 win Wednesday over host West Islip.

Lombardi's catch came with the tying run at third and the winning run at second with two outs.

"I'm just glad my team got out of here with a 'W'," said Lombardi, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI single, a double and two runs and a hit-by-pitch.

"I knew coming in that we needed to win two games."

The Colts (22-4) will host West Islip (19-5) in a winner-take-all Game 2 of the double-elimination county championship finals at 4 p.m. Thursday.

It was the second inning Wednesday that propelled the Colts to victory. A five-run frame, highlighted by Sean Noriega's two-run double into the rightfield corner, gave Half Hollow Hills West a 6-0 lead at the end of an inning and a half.

"We're told that when we hit, we're going to be a tough team to beat," Noriega said.

"We knew that if we attacked early in the count, that good things were going to happen. All I wanted to do was help my boys and get some of those baserunners in."

Owen McMenamy got the message. Leading off the second, McMenamy delivered a solo homer to left on a 3-and-1 count that set the tone for a big inning. McMenamy's blast made it 2-0 Colts.

"Getting on base is the key to any rally," said McMenamy, who went 2-for-2 with a single and a walk. "Anything can spark hits. I just happened to get it."

The Lions started to get theirs in the final inning off Colts righthander Mike Marino, who was making his first start. Marino had to work around a five-hit, three-run seventh to pick up the win.

West Islip coach Shawn Rush called it a "gutsy" performance by Marino.

"We got to him, but just not in time," Rush said.

"There are no moral victories, or trophies for that."

Sam Ilario and Matt Klein each had run-scoring at-bats to get the Lions on the scoreboard after trailing 6-2 at the end of five innings. Brent Baynon's RBI single scored Ilario to bring the Lions to within one in the seventh.

Lombardi made his catch when it mattered most.

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