Ray Weber was untouchable early, James Kory looked unflappable late and West Islip looked like a team for which the county championship was attainable.
Weber scattered five hits, walked none and struck out eight in 6 1⁄3 innings and Kory got the final two outs of the game with the bases loaded to lead the No. 2 Lions (23-4) over No. 8 Northport, 2-1, Saturday in West Islip in the first game of the Suffolk Class AA baseball finals. Game 2 of the best-of-three series will be played Monday at Northport.
Jimmy Mattera’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth gave West Islip a 2-0 lead before Northport loaded the bases in the seventh to end Weber’s day. Kory picked up a strikeout, and after walking D.L. Rod riguez to force in a run, he induced a comebacker to end the game.
“At the end of the game, I came up to James and he said, ‘I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine,’ and that’s how it’s been throughout the entire year,” Weber said.
“I was just trying to match up with Ray,” Kory said. “He threw a great game through six. I went in just trusting my catcher and defense and throwing strikes.”
The late drama belied the fact that Weber was in full control early on. He faced the minimum through four innings, striking out five and not allowing a ball out of the infield.
“I was throwing a little bit backwards,” Weber said. “I was using my curveball a lot for first-pitch strikes. Mixing it up really worked well for me.”
Weber gave West Islip a 1-0 lead with a bunt single that drove in Lou Antos in the first inning. It was a rare blemish against Northport starter Brian Hermann, who struck out five and scattered seven hits with three walks in six innings.
Northport (19-7) came close to tying it in the sixth. Nick Curcio tried to score from second after a throw across the diamond on an infield single, but Kory fired home from first and catcher Nick Valenti made a quick tag to keep the Lions ahead.
The visitors threatened in the following inning as well, but Kory thwarted them again, this time from the mound.
“James has been great for us all year,” Weber said. “You saw the outcome today. It worked out well for us.”