Thunderbirds Avoid Sweep, Edge Bulls Late

HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, April 23

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

With 6 RBIs, including a 2-run homerun, Rich Villa provided a spark for the offense of Half Hollow Hills High School East’s baseball team on Friday in its 14-6 win over Smithtown West (6-3). With the win, along with avoiding a three-game sweep, the Thunderbirds (7-2) stepped into second place in League III with a little more than half the season left to play.

Matt Taylor prepares to take a swing for the Thunderbirds in a game against the Walt Whitman Wildcats.
Matt Taylor prepares to take a swing for the Thunderbirds in a game against the Walt Whitman Wildcats.

Heading into the fifth inning against the Bulls, however, the outlook was rather bleak for the Thunderbirds as they trailed 6-2. The two runs for Hills East had come off the bat of Villa in the first inning as he launched a 2-run homer over the wall for his third homerun of the season.

Hills East rallied, though, and tied the game at 6-6 when Mike Palazzolo managed to steal home on a Bulls pickoff attempt. With 2 outs, Villa, a senior, once again stepped to the plate and broke the tie with a 2-run single that gave the Thunderbirds a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Villa concluded the day 3-for-4 with 6 RBIs. Matt Hogan, a freshman, was 1-for-3 and contributed 3 RBIs of his own.

On the mound, pitcher Nate Byrd earned his first win for Hills East this season, but Joe Marzouk helped out by coming on in the sixth and seventh innings to keep the Bulls’ bats silent with a shutout performance.

Hills East avoided the sweep by the Bulls after dropping the first two games in the three-game series 4-1 and 3-1 early last week. Those were the Thunderbirds’ first two losses of the season, but the boys responded on Friday to stay one game ahead of Smithtown West in League III.

As of press time Monday, the Thunderbirds had two series left to play in the League III before one-game matchups with each of the league’s five other teams to close out regular-season play.

The first series may prove to be another test for Hills East as it takes on League III’s top dog, Smithtown East (8-1). The Thunderbirds were set to travel to the Bulls on Tuesday for the first game of the series before heading back home on Wednesday for game two at High School East. The series is set to culminate with a night game at Otsego Park in Dix Hills on Thursday at 7 p.m.

 Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, April 23, 2015;  A22)

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