John Margolies of Hauppauge during the state Class AA championship...

John Margolies of Hauppauge during the state Class AA championship game in Binghamton on June 8, 2024. Credit: JORGE MARCANO

BINGHAMTON — True to form, the Hauppauge baseball team fell behind early and clawed its way back into the game. The Eagles’ resilience and refusal to give up in big games has been a theme all season, and that resiliency yielded dramatic walk-off wins, their first Suffolk Class AA title in 24 years and the school’s first Long Island championship.

But this Bethlehem team from the Capitol District was different. Bethlehem would score and Hauppauge would answer — but they would continue to score until Hauppauge had no answer.

Bethlehem rapped 14 hits and scored in every inning but the third and fifth to beat Hauppauge, 11-5, and claim the first state Class AA championship in school history on Saturday at Mirabito Stadium.

“I thought we would chip away at their lead and continue to come back like we did all season,” Hauppauge’s Matt Neglia said. “I’ve never felt like we were out of a game this season — it was a great season. But Bethlehem was the best-hitting team we’ve played, and they outhit us.”

Hauppauge starter Vincent Crafa was touched for a run in the first inning and then allowed four hits to the first five batters in the second as Bethlehem scored three times for a 4-1 lead. Eagles coach Josh Gutes brought in closer John Margolies with one out and runners at first and second to extinguish the rally.

“We asked John to do everything for this team, and he did even more than that,’’ said Gutes, whose team promptly tied the score at 4-4. “He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached. He’s everything that Hauppauge baseball is.”

Gutes and Margolies shared an emotional moment in front of the first-base dugout before the state awards commenced.

“It’s sad that our run is over,” Gutes said. “And these guys will never play together again.”

Gutes recalled the final game of the 2022 season, when eventual four-year starting infielders Margolies and Neglia were sophomores and the majority of the team were underclassmen.

“We were walking off the West Babylon field and had finished a 4-14 season in last place,” Gutes said. “I put my arms around John and Matt and I told them, ‘This is never happening again.’ ”

Hauppauge (22-5) improved from four to 14 wins and a playoff berth in 2023 and set a school record for victories on its way to the state final this year. With the growing pains over, Gutes molded his young core of players into championship caliber.

Trailing 4-1, Hauppauge rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second against Bethlehem starter Owen Turner.

Kevin Walker reached on an infield error and freshman Kyle Magill — who had three RBIs and three hits on Friday night in the state semifinals, including a tying single in the sixth and a walk-off two-out single in the eighth in Hauppauge’s 4-3 victory over Victor (Rochester) — sliced an RBI double down the leftfield line.

With one out, Crafa singled and Tucker Brown bunted for a hit to drive in Magill. Turner got Margolies to ground out before Neglia drilled a two-out RBI single to tie the score at 4.

Friday’s game and the early innings Saturday were quite reminiscent of a Suffolk playoff game in which Hauppauge fell behind Comsewogue in the top of the eighth, only to win on Mike Oliveto’s walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the inning . . . not to mention a regular-season game in which Oliveto’s walk-off grand slam in the seventh gave the Eagles a 10-7 victory over East Islip in a game the Eagles had trailed 7-2 in the sixth.

But Bethlehem proved to be too much for Hauppauge. They added two runs in the fourth to take a 6-4 lead and scored three in the sixth and two more in the seventh.

“It hurts really bad right now. We were so close to a state championship,” Margolies said. “But I’m so proud of our team and all the guys for always giving it everything they had. And I know when we look back on our senior season, we’ll have a lot to be proud of. We went from being a last-place team two years ago to being a state finalist.”


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