Of the 65 Little Leagues on Long Island, one team has earned the honor of participating in the New York State Finals.
In the 11/12 year-old Little League Long Island Championship, West Islip (District 34) defeated East Meadow (District 32), 4-2, Sunday night at Plainview-Old Bethpage Community Park.
These teams were the last two remaining after a weeklong, six-team pool play tournament. West Islip defeated East Meadow 2-1 in the first matchup and was able to hang onto a close victory the second time around.
“We were undefeated through the whole thing…11 straight wins through the district and the sections,” said West Islip manager Mike Montiglio. “It was a great game. Clutch hitting when it was needed and great pitching.”
East Meadow jumped out to an early lead in the first inning on an RBI ground-rule double by third baseman Joey Minucci. However, West Islip answered right back in the bottom of the inning on a fielder’s choice RBI ground out by pitcher Ray Weber.
After giving up Minucci’s double, Weber retired eight straight batters, including six strikeouts. He picked up the win by pitching five innings with 11 strikeouts and allowed just one run.
“I just threw strikes and went out there and did what you’re supposed to do as a pitcher and good things happened,” said Weber.
West Islip catcher Nick Valenti broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning off East Meadow’s Ryan Wallstedt, who took the loss.
Weber escaped a jam in the fourth by striking out the side and pitched a scoreless fifth, setting the stage for his teammates to seal the victory.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth inning, West Islip first baseman Jake Russo delivered a clutch two-RBI double to center field that gave the team some needed insurance.
“I’m just thinking ‘Make contact and drive in a run,’” said Russo, who finished the game 2-for-2 with a single, double, walk and two RBI.
Rather than fold, East Meadow started a late rally. Shortstop Frank Ippolito led off the sixth inning with a home run to center off West Islip relief pitcher Jimmy Mattera to cut the deficit to two.
Two more runners reached base and the go-ahead run stepped to the plate, but Mattera recorded a strikeout to end the game and pick up the save.
“One thing we pride ourselves on is never giving up in any game yet,” said East Meadow manager Scott Scheer. “I’m proud of these kids that they still never gave up down two runs. They played their hearts out. It’s an incredible feeling just to be in this game.”
West Islip will represent Section 6 (Long Island) in the upcoming New York State Tournament hosted by the South Shore Little League in Staten Island.