Leo Alvarez said he swung on instinct.
The Oceanside leftfielder was trying to ask for time in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday afternoon, but didn’t get it. Instead, the pitch came and Alvarez reacted, connecting on an RBI single to drive in Jake Lazzaro and lift the fourth-seeded Sailors to a 4-3 victory over No. 1 Port Washington in Game 2 of a Nassau AA semifinal series.
Alvarez’s game-winning hit sets up deciding Game 3 at Port Washington on Monday at 2 p.m.
“Since I wasn’t really ready, [Vikings pitcher Tom Burrows] threw me a fastball right up the middle,” said Alvarez, who finished with two RBIs. “I went back on it and put it right back up the middle. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Alvarez said he felt an extra bit of determination after Port Washington (19-4) intentionally walked Chris Siklas to pitch to him with two outs. That put two Oceanside runners on and Lazzaro, on second base after singling earlier, said he knew the Sailors were going to win once Alvarez swung.
“As soon as I heard contact off the bat, I was digging it out and thinking I was going to score on this hit,” said Lazzaro, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI. “When I saw it go up the middle, I knew I’d be safe.”
Oceanside (13-7) jumped out to a 3-0 lead early, but the Vikings refused to go away. Port Washington scored two unearned runs in the top of the fifth and Sean Meth’s sacrifice fly drove in a run in the top of the seventh to tie the score.
It was a frustrating turn for the Sailors, but coach Mike Postilio said the team did not get down.
“They have a resolve to keep coming back and they’re talented kids,” he said. “We just want to keep playing.”
Despite the miscues on the field, Oceanside starting pitcher Noah Eisel never lost his focus. He tossed eight innings, allowing six hits and striking out eight, including the final batter of the eighth that left the go-ahead run stranded on third.
“Since he threw the second game, we knew we could extend him longer than we would usually in terms of his number of pitches,” Postilio said. “He showed a lot of heart and showed his teammates why he’s a leader.”
The Sailors had a chance to put the game away in the bottom of the eighth after loading the bases, but came away empty after a fielder’s choice and pop fly to short. Undeterred, they focused on the next opportunity.
Austin Vlahakis, who started the day in centerfield, pitched the ninth and kept Port Washington off the board to set up the top of Oceanside’s order.
“We’re great hitters,” Lazzaro said. “I knew someone was going to get on and someone was going to have an opportunity to drive them in.”
Now the Sailors turn their attention to the next challenge: keeping the bats hots and hopefully booking a ticket to the county finals.
“I feel great,” Alvarez said. “I think everyone’s swings look really good and we’re going to come back on Monday even better than today.”