PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — Prior to the bottom of the sixth inning of North Salem's regional championship game against Section 11's Southold, there was a lengthy meeting between coaches and umpires concerning Connor Mahoney's pitch count with the game tied at 1-1.
It was determined Mahoney was not over the pitch limit and he wasn't deterred by the delay, mowing down three batters to send the game to the seventh. The Tigers took the lead in the next inning and held on for a 2-1 victory in the Class C regional finals on Saturday, June 3, at St. Joseph's College.
"It just kind of showed [Southold] wanted to get me out of there," Mahoney said of the pitch-count conference. "But I'll take that as a compliment. I just tried to bear down from there. I was setting up my fastball, which I always like to do. I throw 60 percent off-speed (pitches). I started to find that kind of side-winding slider around the fourth inning and that was really clutch for me. I had my best stuff today."
The senior was masterful again, striking out 12 batters while scattering six hits, walking two and allowing one earned run.
"He got out of some jams and I've got all the confidence in the world in him," North Salem coach Rob Gilchrist said of Mahoney, who threw 114 pitches. "He took care of business."
North Salem took the lead in the top of the seventh inning when senior Adam Concadoro hit a chopper back to the mound and pitcher Luke Hansen air-mailed the throw over the first baseman's head. Anthony D'Innocenzo, who was in motion with two outs, scored all the way from first base.
"When I saw Anthony score, it was the best feeling ever," Concadoro said.
Gilchrist has been around long enough to know that some funny things happen on a baseball diamond from time to time.
"That's how baseball is—it's a game of inches," Gilchrist said. "The ball bounces some crazy ways sometimes and we got fortunate."
Mahoney knew there were still three outs to record after the Tigers took the lead.
"I wanted to compose myself and didn't want to celebrate too early—it's not like we just walked off," Mahoney said. "We still had a tough three outs with two, three, four coming up. I gathered the team and said, 'This could be the toughest three outs you ever get.' We just have to bear down right now."
It was one of those games where runs were at a premium and the Tigers were able to scratch and claw to the win when they didn't have their best day offensively against Hansen, a left-handed ace.
"He was super tough," Mahoney said of Hansen. "That's probably one of the best pitchers we've faced this year and that's probably one of the best (Class) C teams we've faced this year. Honestly, that's how pitchers duels kind of go. There might be five hits per team and one team can win on an error. You're crossing your fingers to get something."
"That's a great team, Gilchrist said. "Their pitcher threw a heck of a game against us. He got stronger as the game went on."
North Salem (16-6) initially took the lead when Concadoro doubled and scored on an error in the third inning.
Concadoro, who is the team's shortstop, served as the designated hitter in the game as he is battling a right shoulder injury.
"If he's not in the lineup, I don't know if we could win this game," Mahoney said. "He's a huge part of our team."
He didn't bat or play the field in a 3-2 regional semifinal win over Pine Plains on June 1, but said he will be back for the state final four.
"Having him back in the lineup, just gives the rest of the guys that much more confidence," Gilchrist said.
D'Innocenzo usually plays second base and slid over to shortstop for the last two games, while Shane Cotter manned second base.
"Anthony really picked me up these past two regional games," Concadoro said. "He had one play Connor tipped and he was able to run in and throw him out. Shane also did a great job today."
Southold answered back in the fourth on an RBI single from Doug Fielder to tie the game at 1-1.
Healy, Jesse Fleming and Rian Balbino each had a hit against Southold, which Gilchrist knew would pose a big test as it entered 23-1.
North Salem advances to the state semifinals where it will face Section 5's Avon at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9, at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton. The Tigers defeated Avon 11-8 in last year's state final.
A win there would advance the Tigers to the state final against either Section 10's Potsdam or Section 3's Cooperstown at 10 a.m. the next day at Binghamton University.
"The key is going to be pitching," Concadoro said. "Our pitching always takes us far. Defense and pitching are always the key. The feeling (of going back to the state final four) is incredible, especially as a senior. I really didn't want it to end today."