John DeMartini’s Northport Tigers forced a deciding game Tuesday in the Suffolk Class AA baseball playoffs. His take on Nick Palmerini’s 11-strikeout effort in a 6-3 win over West Islip was spot on.
“We battled to play another day. What a big win,” said DeMartini, Northport’s coach for 31 years. “We were down 2-0 early and came back to win it and force a third game.”
West Islip coach Shawn Rush, who led the Lions to the 2014 title, looked at it differently. “They tied the series and now today means nothing,’’ Rush said. “Tomorrow is what matters. Momentum is your next day’s pitcher.”
Eighth-seeded Northport will travel to second-seeded West Islip on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
West Islip will send James Kory to the mound. Kory, as a sophomore, was the winning pitcher in 2014 when West Islip defeated Half Hollow Hills West for the crown.
“He just makes us a much better team,” Rush said. “He has big-game experience.”
DeMartini was unsure if he’d go back to ace Brian Herrmann for the final. “We’re here because of Palmerini and Herr mann,” he said. “I just don’t know if he’s had enough rest.”
Tuesday belonged to Palmerini (9-2). He scattered 10 hits, walked one and struck out the final batter of the first five innings, leaving seven runners on base. He recorded a strikeout to end the fourth with the bases loaded and struck out the side in the fifth.
“I had better location later in the game,” Palmerini said. “I was hitting my spots better. Earlier they were crushing anything I left over the plate.”
West Islip (23-5) scored twice in the first. Lou Antos came in on a wild pitch and Ray Weber scored when Nick Valenti drilled a two-out single to rightfield. Northport (20-7) answered in the bottom of the inning, when Frank Stola’s sacrifice fly scored Joe Stockman to make it 2-1.
The Tigers scored four unearned runs in the second, aided by three infield errors. Stockman and Jake McCarthy had RBI singles, and George Sutherland added an RBI groundout to make it 5-2.
West Islip cut the lead in the fifth. With two outs, John Risedorf walked, Kyle McNeill singled and Antos singled to make it 5-3. Northport had some two-out magic of its own in the fifth, when McCarthy crushed a fastball for a solo home run for the final margin.
“Greatest feeling in the world,” McCarthy said. “Now we need one more win.”