Southampton’s quest for a Long Island Championship and run for a state title came to a disappointing end Tuesday as Nassau County Class B Champion Wheatley erupted for nine runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull away from the Mariners to win 13-2 at Hauppauge High School.
Southampton’s Wyatt Schmidt (8-1) pitched well despite the loss, holding on to a 2-0 lead until the fifth inning. That’s when the Wildcats caught a huge break and the Mariner defense gave back some outs.
With runners on second and third and two outs, the ball was hit right back to Schmidt who easily gloved it and ran over to first for the force out. However, the plate umpire called catcher’s interference and awarded the batter first base, loading the bases and keeping the inning alive. The next batter reached when a throwing error allowing two runs to score. Wheatley added two more unearned runs on defensive errors before Schmidt got the final out.
Head coach Ike Birdsall didn’t have any answers for the inning’s mishaps. He hadn’t seen that many miscues from his defense all year.
“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong that inning. Murphy’s Law, I guess,” he said.
The Mariners committed 10 errors altogether in the game, many of them in the fifth and seventh innings.
Schmidt retired the side in the sixth without any damage to keep the score at 4-2, but in the seventh he was throwing too many pitches and not getting the desired results for his efforts. Birdsall was forced to go to his bullpen. Eddie McLaughlin came on in relief, but by then the Wildcats had mounted an impressive offensive attack, had the momentum, and didn’t let up. McLaughlin was lifted for David Kirshy who faced several batters and then Garrett Pike closed out the inning, but not before Wheatley scored nine unanswered runs to take a 13-2 lead.
The seventh inning stood in stark contrast to most of the game. In fact, the Mariners were cruising after scoring their runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings. With a two-run lead and their ace on the mound going into the fifth inning, it felt like Mariner baseball—solid pitching, clutch hitting, good at-bats up and down the lineup, and plays being made. In the bottom of the second, Pike singled and John Navan entered the game to pinch run. McLaughlin’s bunt attempt was caught by the third baseman, but his throw to double-up Navan was overthrown and allowed Navan to get to third. Thomas Beckman then drove Navan home with a single to take the lead 1-0.
In the fourth, McLaughlin singled and Jon Wasserman came on to pinch run. Wheatley’s pitcher made a nice catch running off the mound on a bunt attempt and threw back to first to double-up Wasserman. With two outs, Henry Egan worked a walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jake Marano then lined a single to right center to drive in Egan and take the lead, 2-0. The Mariners had another opportunity in the third inning with runners on second and third, but could not move the runners home.
Birdsall had mixed emotions about the way the season ended.
“It’s a tough way to go out, you don’t like to get beat, but you don’t like to get beat by yourself,” he said. “You know the kids are better players than that. I would have hoped the seniors would go out as winners.”
Southampton will lose four seniors to graduation, including Chris Cornacchio, Henry Egan, Wyatt Schmidt, and Alex Soyars.
On the other hand Birdsall noted, “We won a county and league championship. 19-3 is a great season in anyone’s book. You have to be good to make it to the championship game. They’re a great bunch of kids, I enjoyed it immensely.”
Birdsall also praised his assistant coaches, Gary Pike and Robert Schmidt, for their contributions to the team. “I can’t do as much as we did this year without those guys,” he said. “They’re my go-to guys, they’ve always been a rock to help me make the right call.”