Valley Stream North and Valley Stream South squared off in the Class A baseball playoffs for the second straight year with one season ending and another championship dream kept alive.
Unlike a season ago, it was South who got the best of its crosstown rivals with the 16th-seeded Falcons (8-11) upsetting the Spartans, 5-3, on Monday. North, which last year defeated South 17-2 in the first round of the playoffs, sees its season end at 12-9 following a third-place finish in a highly competitive Conference A-IV.
South’s neighborhood playoff triumph was keyed by pitcher Andy Labeck, who tossed a complete game three-hitter with 14 strikeouts. He also helped himself at the plate with an RBI single that scored Joe Volpe to give the Falcons a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth.
“He had command of his fastball and curve ball which really kept the batters off balance,” South coach Ken Ward of Labeck, who propelled the Falcons into the playoffs with a 13-strikeout performance in a 3-2 win against North Shore on May 7. “As of late, he has been on.”
Labeck took the mound with a 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run first inning single by James Cannon. South had balance offensively with hits by Tyler Gill, Garret Pagonas, Louis Dona, Labeck, Volpe and Cannon.
“It was all spread out throughout the lineup,” said Ward of his team’s hitting success. “It’s great when everyone contributes.”
North rallied and cut the margin to 5-3 thanks to an RBI single by Matt Cosme, followed by two unearned runs. Down to their final out, the Spartans had the tying runs on base, but Labeck got Cosme to fly out to deep left field ending the comeback bid.
“We mounted a little comeback but it was too little too late,” North coach Phil Sanfilippo said. “We weren’t able to score enough to win.”
Monday’s loss ended an up and down season for North, which won its most regular-season games (12) under Sanfilippo, but ended on a four-game losing streak that included a 5-4 extra innings heart-breaker to Garden City in the playoff opener last Saturday.
“We had a very good regular season,” said Sanfilippo, who will lose only five players for the upcoming 2015 campaign. “It was a bittersweet type of season.”
Ward said in addition to playing an elimination playoff game, facing a team from the same community like North provides an extra special layer to the atmosphere.
“Any time you play North in any sport it is special,” he said. “It’s like Yankees and Mets.”