An intense rivalry match up between Division and Island Trees baseball came down the wire Monday. With the winner advancing to the Class A quarterfinals and the other team going home, even more was at stake.
After falling to Division in last year's county finals, Island Trees players refused to be sent home again. Late heroics by two of the Bulldog's big hitters gave them just enough juice to push past Division, 4-3, in an 8 inning game.
“We definitely had that [game] in the back of our heads,” said Steve Connelly, one of Island Trees' key offensive players. “We weren’t going to take that this year."
In the fourth inning with the score tied at 1, a couple of infield errors by Island Trees would allow Division to pull ahead with an early 2-1 lead. Division’s Matt O’Rourke then pulled off a successful suicide squeeze to plate the third run.
Division’s ace pitcher Anthony Semonella was nearly perfect on the mound, pitching deep into the game and making few mistakes. That all changed, however, when Island Trees Mike Jeannetti smashed a two-run shot to dead center to tie it at 3 in the bottom of the sixth, with the Division outfielder crashing through the fence.
“I felt good in batting practice," Jeannetti said. "I knew I was going to see a lot of curve balls, so I just sat back and opened up on it."
Jeannetti would later come in to pitch and pick up the win, tossing two and a half innings in relief.
Louis Mele led off the final inning with a one out single. Once again, Jeannetti would come through in the clutch, crushing a double to deep right center. The ball rolled under the fence and was ruled that Mele had to stop at third.
After an intentional walk to load the bases, Connelly was the hero as he hit a walk off RBI single through the middle to score Mele and send Island Trees to the next round.
"That was me chocking up - we practiced all winter all year chocking up with two strikes and going the opposite way," Connelly said. I was doing it all day, sticking to the fundamentals. That’s all it was."
Connelly choose a great day to have his best game of the season. He went 4-4 with a double and an RBI.
“We needed this, I needed this. I was in a three game slump," Connelly said. "To get that last hit helped even more, just with confidence, with everything."
Island Trees (14-5) will now face Wantagh in the quarterfinals in a best of three game series, with the first game on Wednesday. Time and location are to be determined. Division finishes the season 11-10.
Team1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 F Division 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 Island Trees 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 4
W: Jeannetti L: O'Rourke HR: Jeannetti (1)