Connetquot righty Matt Brown-Eiring saw the ball skip past catcher Josh McGee and dashed to cover the plate. Ward Melville’s Max Nielsen saw it, too, from third base and saw the chance to tie the score with two out in the second inning. They both arrived at the same time an instant after the throw from McGee at the backstop.
Brown-Eiring snatched the ball and threw his body in front of Nielsen to make the tag in a big collision that left both splayed on the ground. The run was prevented and the inning over, but the Thunderbirds junior slammed his glove to the ground and grabbed his right knee at the spot of the players’ impact. The T-birds held their collective breath for a moment until Brown-Eiring sprung to his feet and screamed “Let’s Go!”
That play was the match that ignited what became a Connetquot fireworks show. The Thunderbirds scored 13 unanswered runs over the next three innings as they defeated the host Patriots, 14-1, in the decisive third game of the Suffolk Class AA championship.
Connetquot (21-6) pounded out 15 hits, including a mammoth tape-measure home run by Alex Ungar, and a second excellent Game 3 pitching performance from Brown-Eiring to capture its eighth county title and first since 2015. The Thunderbirds will face defending state champion Massapequa on Saturday for the Long Island championship at St. Joseph’s College.
“We had a lead and there was no way I was going to let that run score,” said Brown-Eiring, who also pitched the T-birds to a Game 3 win over Longwood in the semifinal round. “I got up and screamed because I was fired up and I wanted everyone fired up.”
“That play at the plate set the tone for us — it was a game-shifter,” McGee said. “He lit it and our bats were on fire.”
Connetquot scored three runs each in the third and fourth and seven in the fifth to turn it into a rout. Brown-Eiring and James Goff had RBI in the third. Ungar’s homer led off the fourth and McGee and Jared Yalon drove in runs before the frame was over. Yalon finished with four RBI, Ungar with three and McGee, Joe Zimmerman and Goff with two apiece.
The contest was especially rewarding for Ungar, the shortstop, who made four errors in Monday’s Game 2 win. His mother, Roseann, gave him a special cross on a chain to wear in the game and he said “this is a much better feeling than I had yesterday.”
“When I met with the team at the start of the season I asked them to fill out some cards and asked what their expectations were,” first-year coach Rob Burger said. “They overwhelmingly communicated that it wouldn’t be enough just to win a division title. They wanted to at least get here and they did it like good teams do with everyone contributing.”
Brown-Eiring has been a special player for the Thunderbirds in the postseason and said “the thing about the postseason is you have to be clutch and that’s what I’ve wanted to be — it’s what makes people remember.”
“The guy has flipped some kind of switch,” McGee said. “Matty’s just been awesome.”