Briarcliff headed back to state final four
Leading 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning of yesterday's Class B Southeast Regional final, Babylon pitcher Sanders Shanks was one strike away from getting out of a no-out bases loaded jam.
After inducing a pop-up to short and a strikeout, Shanks hurled two quick strikes to Briarcliff's Ryan Huegel, but fell behind in the count and eventually walked in a run.
That set up a catastrophic inning.
After an infield single and another walk tied the score, Shanks was pulled but reliever Matt Finelli walked in the go-ahead run and gave up a base-clearing double to Paul Henshaw, as Briarcliff went on to score 12 runs in the inning and ultimately end Babylon's season with a 13-5 win at East Hampton High School.
"I was starting to get a little tired," Shanks said. "I couldn't find the zone or get into a groove."
Briarcliff (22-4) returns to the state semifinal for the second straight season after reaching the state championship game last year.
Briarcliff beat Mattituck 9-8 in the Southeast Regional Final last season, and Henshaw, Briarcliff's starting pitcher, said he used that experience to lead his team back from yesterday's 4-0 deficit against Babylon.
"This feels awesome," Henshaw said. "I pitched in the regional final game last year and it was just as crazy as this game, so I reminded the guys to stay in it and [in the sixth] I was lucky enough to get a good pitch to hit."
Babylon went ahead with four runs in the bottom of the third, sparked by Max Watt's RBI double to center. James Quigley followed with an RBI single to right, and Finelli hit a two-run single to make it 4-0.
Briarcliff brought 16 batters to the plate in its 12-run sixth inning, picking up eight hits and four walks. After Henshaw's double made it 9-4, Asa Barken's two-run triple later made it 12-4 and Huegel's RBI double capped the inning at 13-4.
Babylon scored one unearned run in the bottom of the seventh.
"Right now it's sad but the memories that we made this season, to win a Long Island Championship for the first time since 2007, you can't beat that," Watt, a senior, said. "Overall it's been a great experience at Babylon. Every game we played is a great memory and I'm so happy to be a part of this team."