Alex Poliwoda didn't start the Southeast Regional Class C final the way he wanted to, yet he finished it exactly the way he envisioned.
Southold fell behind 3-0 after the first inning, but Poliwoda settled into a nice groove for the First Settlers in their 8-5 win Saturday over Tuckahoe at Mamaroneck High School.
As a result, Southold captured its first Southeast Regional championship. The First Settlers play the winner of Hoosic Valley and Norwood-Norfolk in the state semifinals next Saturday at Binghamton University.
"We were down after that first inning, but we knew we had the talent and the hitting in our lineup to just bounce back, and we did it," said Poliwoda, who went the distance and threw 122 pitches, 71 for strikes. He allowed five earned runs with five strikeouts, four walks and and three hit batsmen. "We chipped away every inning."
That chipping away began in the top of the second when Poliwoda led off with a solo homer to left to cut Southold's deficit to 3-1. After scoring two runs in the third to get to within 4-3, the First Settlers tied the score when Shayne Johnson walked with the bases loaded.
One batter later, Patrick McFarland reached on a hard-hit ball to short, scoring Dylan Clausen, to give Southold (21-2) its first lead at 5-4.
"We put the ball in play and that's what you're supposed to do," said Poliwoda, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. "We rebounded with our hitting."
Clausen's RBI triple into the right-centerfield gap scored Liam Walker from first and highlighted a three-run sixth that sealed it for Southold. Johnson's RBI single plated Greg Gehring to close out the top of the sixth with the First Settlers leading 8-4.
"I always look to see where my opening is and that was my opening right there in right-center," said Clausen, who had two runs scored. "I saw a fastball, inside a little bit, and I just turned on it."
Gehring closed out Poliwoda's complete game with a nice putout in the hole at third with a runner on.
"It was a good play to end on, something special, I guess," Gehring said. "We started off slow, but we knew we weren't out of it. It's a good way to finish to get to play next week."