Northport Tigers lose to Lions in nine innings on Opening Day

Northport Tigers lose to Lions in nine innings on Opening Day

Zeros filled the scoreboard on Opening Day at John DeMartini Baseball Field in Northport on Monday afternoon.

West Islip righthander Chris Lospinuso had a no-hitter through five innings and despite having traffic in almost every inning, Northport’s sophomore lefty Max Donecea had managed to keep the Lions off the scoreboard through six.

Something had to give.

When Northport Tiger senior catcher, lead-off hitter and captain John Dwyer strode up to the plate in bottom of the sixth inning and not only broke up the no hit bid but put the Tigers ahead 1-0 with a 362-foot home run over the left center field fence, it gave.

Lospinuso had finally blinked, and Donecea wanted nothing more than to slam the door shut in the top of the inning. He could not.

Lion centerfielder Sean Boyle led off the seventh with a clean single, was sacrificed to second and scored on a suicide squeeze executed perfectly by left fielder Erick Burciaga. The game was tied at one.

“That squeeze was a little surprising in the moment and I should have anticipated it,” Dwyer said. “Either way, they executed the play and it’s a tough play to defend if done right.”

Donecea was now out of the game and replaced on the mound by Owen Johansen, who has returned to the diamond after a year on the lacrosse team and a broken ankle during the football season. Johansen, who started the game at shortstop, pitched a scoreless eighth inning and gave his team a chance to earn a memorable, walk-off win on Opening Day. 

They were 90 feet from doing so.

Dwyer was hit by a pitch, Johansen and LF Michael Lombardo singled, and Northport had the bases loaded and nobody out. But with Dwyer dancing off third, ready to score the winning run, West Islip reliever Frank Romano induced a popup and struck out two to escape the jam. 

In his second inning of work, Johansen allowed a walk, threw a wild pitch and then gave up an RBI single to Burciaga. After being in line for the win, Johansen took the hard-luck loss.

“West Islip is one of the best teams in the county and this year is no different,” said Northport Head Baseball Coach Sean Lynch. “It was very frustrating not to get that run to win the game, especially with the way Max threw the ball today.  He pitched a great game.”

“I would have loved to finish the game,” said Donecea, who gave up five hits, four walks and struck out seven. “I felt like my control could have been a little better, but overall, I think I pitched well.”

Also pitching well was Lospinuso, who struck out 11. But he lamented the one mistake that cost him his no-no.

“I left a splitter up to that kid [Dwyer] and he took advantage of it,” said Lospinuso. “Other than that, all three of my pitches were working well today. I was able to keep them off-balance with four seam fastball, splitter and curve.”

Northport was able to balance their record on Tuesday by beating the Lions in West Islip. Aiden Bisson got the win for the Tigers in their 6-2 victory. The rubber match will be played on April 8 at Northport.