Michael Heller was not supposed to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning in a scoreless game. The Pierson-Bridgehampton senior was going to be replaced by a pinch hitter.
Heller urged coach Jonathan Tortorella to let him hit. The move paid off.
Heller singled to rightfield for the team's second hit of the game and he scored on a passed ball with two outs on a strikeout to give Pierson-Bridgehampton a 1-0 win over East Rockaway in a Long Island Class C finals/Southeast Regional baseball semifinal Monday at Dowling Sports Complex.
Pierson-Bridgehampton (21-3) will play the winner of Tuesday's game between Tri-Valley and Haldane at either a Section I or Section IX location Wednesday with the winner advancing to the state semifinals Saturday in Binghamton.
"I just said I want this," Heller said. "I was full of adrenaline. I wasn't going to be denied. I never wanted anything more in my life."
Said Tortorella: "He came over to me and said he got this. He's a senior and I have a lot of respect for him. He did exactly what we needed. When Mike says I got this, you trust him 100 percent."
Heller advanced to third on a two-base error with no outs on an attempted pickoff because of the vast amount of foul territory. After a groundout to first base and a pop-up in foul territory in shallow rightfield, Hunter Leyser walked and stole second base. Colman Vila struck out swinging, but a passed ball allowed Heller to score.
"It's about the ugliest beauty that you can have," Heller said.
Both starters were excellent. Vila threw a five-hitter, walked two and struck out six. He stranded two runners at third base.
"The fastball was hitting the spots," Vila said. "The curveball kept them off balance and I was able to use my fastball as an out pitch. I'm used to being in pitching duels."
Billy Humes was the tough-luck loser for East Rockaway (14-9). He pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed two hits, walked five and struck out seven. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and it was the first ball that left the infield.
"He was incredible," East Rockaway coach Dan Vito said. "He beared down with a guy on third base and no one out in the bottom of the seventh. He just about got out of it. It didn't break our way."
It wasn't the ideal way to win, but Tortorella will take it.
"Whatever it takes, I guess," he said. "That wasn't conventional baseball. Everything worked out in our favor. We blew almost every shot to get that run in."
"We just got really lucky," Vila said. "Hopefully, we can move past this poor hitting performance and win our next one in real fashion."