After allowing one run in the top of the seventh inning to fall behind Conference AA-III baseball rival Port Washington by seven last Friday afternoon at Firemen’s Field, Valley Stream Central’s long string of intense nail-biters appeared to be coming to an end.
But the young and enthusiastic Eagles produced a rally for the ages, scoring eight times in their final at-bat without making an out to pull out a stunning 13-12 walk-off victory on Spring Pep Rally Day. Junior Angel Acevado, who got the win in relief, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force home junior Kevin Goldman with the winning run. It was Central’s seventh straight game decided by a run or two.
“We’ve lost so many close games, it’s great to be on the winning side,” coach Frank Alesia said after the Eagles improved to 4-10. “We’re such a young team with four sophomores and two freshmen starting, and they’ve been resilient. We’ve been in so many games where a hit here or a pitch there would’ve made the difference between winning and losing.”
Discipline at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, combined with Port’s wildness on the mound, led to a myriad of walks — five — that brought the Eagles within 12-7 and the tying run to the on-deck circle. After senior Brandon Wilder, Acevedo, freshman Will DeLuca, sophomore Joe Picillo, and sophomore Cain Ruiz received free passes to first, sophomore Vito Friscia got the first hit of the rally, a single that scored DeLuca and Picillo to slice the margin to three.
“I gave Vito the green light as soon as he came to the plate,” Alesia said of Friscia, the team’s top hitter. “He’s got four homers already, and if he jacks one there we’re only down one. But a single there was almost as good.”
The walk parade continued when sophomore cleanup batter Mike Ciullo gained first on four balls to reload the bases. Goldman followed with a single to score Ruiz, and after freshman Thomas Logan was hit by a pitch, scoring Friscia, the Eagles were within one at 12-11. Wilder’s second walk of the inning brought home Ciullo with the tying run, and the unlikely comeback was complete after a pitch skipped into Acevedo’s ankle.
“It was looking grim most of the day,” Alesia said. “We were about to be swept for a second straight series. I starting thinking we could pull it off after Vito’s hit. That brought the tying run to the plate with nobody out.
“It was pretty incredible,” he added. “Everyone from the softball and lacrosse games funneled over to us, so we had a huge crowd for the last few innings.”
The Eagles hadn’t won since Picillo, who has three victories, blanked defending Nassau Class AA champion Calhoun, 1-0, on April 11. Central lost two tough games to Port Washington, 6-4 and 4-3, and were swept by Mepham by scores of 2-1, 4-3, and 3-1.