AMHERST, N.Y. - Though dark clouds loomed overhead, lightning didn't strike twice for the Long Island scholastic baseball team Thursday. Instead, it was the magic bat of Stephen Goldstein that twice struck for winning, 10th-inning hits of back-to-back Empire State Game instant classics.
Goldstein pulled a first-pitch fastball into the rightfield corner to snap a tie at 3 and drive in two runs in Long Island's 5-3 first-game victory over Central. Goldstein, a lefthanded hitting centerfielder who played at St. Dominic, then ended the long day-into-night doubleheader by stroking a bad-hop walk-off single over short that scored Tim Caputo from second in a 7-6 victory over Hudson Valley.
"Very tiring, but very rewarding," said Goldstein, who was too tired to jump for joy after Long Island played three extra innings in each game. "It was a good day."
That's an understatement. Not only was Goldstein twice a timely hitter, but his defense in the second game was of the four-star variety. In the seventh, he made a spectacular diving catch in the right-centerfield gap. In the eighth, he threw his second runner out at the plate preserving a tie at 6. In the ninth, he ran down a booming drive off the bat of Hudson Valley's Scott Hagan with a tumbling, backhand catch about five feet short of the wall 400 feet away in straightaway center of this spacious park that his home to the University of Buffalo baseball team.
Goldstein wasn't the only one wielding a magic wand. In the opener, shortstop Tim Caputo of Glenn, who had three hits in each game, delivered a two-out single to left in the top of the seventh, with Long Island one strike away from defeat. "I just kept fighting off fastballs and when he came in with a curve, I pulled it through the left side," Caputo said. "It was a good at-bat and a long at-bat."
Three innings later, Goldstein wasted no time. "They brought in a lefty so I was looking for a first-pitch fastball," he said. "It was right down the middle." Not for long, as it rocketed down the line for a double.
In the second game, Caputo scored the winning run after a leadoff walk and a bunt single by Joe Tracy of St. Mary's. Against hard-throwing lefty Matt Horton, Goldstein smacked a bouncer that struck a rock and shot over the shortstop's head. "I was looking to drive the ball the other way with two strikes," Goldstein said.
As soon as the ball took its fortuitous bounce, "Right then I knew I was going to score," the speedy Caputo said. He slid in well ahead of the throw and L.I., which had to score three runs in the seventh to force extra innings in the nightcap, had performed one last magic trick on a day filled with them.
(Photo: Alex Falconi tags a runner out at the plate for Long Island.)