Their uniforms are emblazoned with the word “Eagles.” Maybe it should be “Alchemists,” because the West Babylon baseball team is exceptional at turning things that look worthless into gold.
The Eagles were 5-3 after eight games and transformed themselves into a contender. Then they won two games in the championship series in comeback fashion for the Suffolk title. And they were at it again on Saturday night against Division in the Long Island Class A championship game.
West Babylon scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to erase a one-run deficit and score a 4-2 victory over the Dragons at Farmingdale State.
“The whole year we’ve been down in spots,” junior Jace Alvino said. “We came into the dugout after the sixth inning and we said, ‘This is not over.’ I’ve been playing with these guys since I was 8 years old and there’s not a better feeling in the world than winning this with them.”
“There’s no panic ever in the dugout no matter what the situation is,” Eagles coach Victor Manzella said. “The bigger the situation, the more we come out and perform.”
West Babylon (22-4) is a Long Island baseball champion for the third time and the first time since 1993. As the Southeast Region champion, it advanced to a state Class A semifinal against Section II champion Columbia at Binghamton University on Friday at 5 p.m.
Division (27-2) scored twice in the bottom of the fifth on run-scoring singles by Matt Bolton and Joe Yovino. West Babylon got to work in the next half-inning and got a little help from the Dragons, who committed four errors and suffered a costly balk by starter James Sill at the end of what had been an excellent performance.
The Eagles got to within 2-1 in the sixth when Elijah Outlaw reached base on an error, went to third on Ryan Adams’ double to leftfield and scored on Alvino’s groundout.
The seventh inning started with a four-pitch walk to Mark Moebes and a key double down the line by Sean McGuire.
Outlaw’s one-out ground ball was misplayed, allowing the tying run to score and McGuire to move up. Sill was called for a balk with runners at the corners to bring in the go-ahead run.
“I missed the sign to bunt right before I got the hit,” McGuire said. “I realized I messed up, but it all worked out. I’m saying it was part of the plan.”
Alvino then put the game away with his bat as well as his arm. His slicing liner to rightfield eluded Chris Clune’s glove and went for a triple to make it 4-2. Then he retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to finish a five-hitter with six strikeouts.
There was plenty of drama along the way for West Babylon. In the second inning, McGuire was thrown out by Clune while trying to score on a flyout to rightfield. And in the sixth, after scoring their first run, the Eagles left a man on third base when Division leftfielder Cody Brush made a full-extension diving catch of Chris Critchley’s slicing liner in the wind.
Asked when he envisioned West Babylon again ascending the mountain in Long Island baseball, Manzella replied, “Honestly, four years.
“I pulled all these guys up as freshmen and eighth-graders four years ago,” he added. “This was the plan all along and now it’s coming to fruition. They’re juniors and seniors, so we’ve been waiting for this year for a long time. This is not something that just came about. I’ve been waiting for this team to get here and they’re here and now they’re on the big stage.”