Walk-Off Hit Leads Team Into Playoffs

Maykell Guzman was the winning pitcher and drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to help the Bonackers clinch their first baseball playoff berth in four seasons. Jack Graves

The East Hampton High School baseball team was to have finished up the regular season at Miller Place Thursday afternoon, but nothing was riding on that game inasmuch as the Bonackers had clinched the program's first playoff spot since 2007 by defeating the Panthers 2-1 at home the day before behind Maykell Guzman's pitching and hitting.

Guzman, a sophomore who mixes swift fastballs with tantalizing changeups, allowed only two hits over the course of seven innings here on May 18. And he came through at the plate as well, his shot down the left field line scoring his older brother, Deilyn, with the winning run from third base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

The Guzmans' teammates rushed from the dugout as Deilyn crossed home plate, and the brothers were soon besieged by whooping and cavorting celebrants.

A few moments later, when the team had reassembled in the dugout, Eddie Bahns, the team's coach, told them, "You guys played an incredible game today, the best this year. You've worked your butts off and you deserve it. I couldn't be happier for you. I'm thrilled. You did an excellent job. Everybody's happy for you, everybody's been pulling for you. . . ."

Indeed, East Hampton's baseball program has rarely made the playoffs in the past decade. Before 2007, the last time a Bonac baseball team made them was in 2002.

When Bahns was finished, Will Collins, his assistant, added, "Every guy today came up with big plays -- there was Maykell's pitching, Michael's catch out there [in the top of the seventh] in center field, and Ben's [in the top of the fourth] in right . . . It was a tremendous team win."

After giving up a triple to the visitors' leadoff hitter, Shane Paparelli, in the top of the first, Guzman retired the rest of the side on strikeouts.
The only other hit off him that grey afternoon was a single through the right side of the infield by Dan Smith, who bats second in Miller Place's lineup, leading off the third.

Guzman finished with eight strikeouts. He walked five. Two of those walks, issued in succession in the top of the second to the designated hitter, Matt Crimi, and to Bruce Tyler, resulted in the Panthers' sole run as Crimi, who had advanced to third on a bunt by Dan Becker, was plated by Kevin Cargoi's sacrifice fly. John Hirdt grounded out to A.J. Bennett, East Hampton's first baseman, to end the inning, leaving Tyler stranded at third.

East Hampton tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the third. With one out, Brandon Brophy, who bats second in the lineup, lined a single to right (one of nine hits the Bonackers had that day). Brophy took second on Deilyn Guzman's short-to-first groundout. Miller Place's pitcher, Cody McPartland, then issued back-to-back-to-back free passes to Cameron Yusko, Bennett, and Maykell Guzman, the latter allowing Brophy to stroll home with the game-tying run.

The visitors had a runner on second with one out in the top of the fifth, the result of a walk and a steal, but a foulout to Yusko off third and a strikeout ended the threat.

The top of the seventh began with a great running catch by Michael Abreu of a long fly ball hit to straightaway center field by Becker, Abreu's opposite number. Guzman then gave up back-to-back walks, to Cargoi, and to a pinch-hitter, Justin Ludwig, putting runners at first and second for Paparelli, whose triple began the game. Bahns came out to discuss the situation with Guzman.

When the action resumed, Paparelli bunted in front of the plate -- a move that left Miller Place fans near the first baseline dumbfounded, but which didn't surprise East Hampton's catcher, Ryan Joudeh, whose throw to second caught the hesitant Cargoi as he tried to get back to the bag.

That was the second out of the inning. There were still runners at first and second, but Guzman struck out Smith to retire the side.

The Bonackers lost no time when they came to bat in the bottom of the seventh. Brophy led it off with another base hit and Deilyn Guzman followed with a double to the center field fence.

Collins, the third base coach, then tried a safety squeeze with Yusko bunting and Brophy, who'd taken a secondary lead off third, racing plateward, but Brophy was dead on arrival. Later, Collins, who was spared any agonizing because of the happy outcome, said a suicide squeeze probably would have been better.

One out later, with runners at second and third and two gone, Maykell Guzman, who bats sixth in Bonac's lineup, smacked the aforementioned walk-off single that led to the joyful celebration at the plate.

"It's the first time our seniors [Dylan Carroza, Ben DePietro, Frank Grande, and Richard Dalene] have made the playoffs," said Bahns. "They were eighth graders the last time we did. The playoffs are a great thing. I'm glad they'll get the chance to experience them."