After Tuesday’s batting practice at Sachem North, assistant coach Gary Comstock told the team that championship seasons don’t come along very often.
“You’ll remember it for the rest of your life,” said Comstock, who was a member of Sachem’s championship team in 1987, the last time the Flaming Arrows won or appeared in a baseball final. Before that the only other title on the diamond in Sachem's 66-year history came in 1979.
No. 7 Sachem (20-4) will have a chance to make history again Wednesday when it hosts No. 8 Commack (21-6) for this year’s Suffolk Class AA championship.
It’s been 24 years almost to the day since Sachem beat East Islip in the county final and as the years fly by the story becomes the talk of legends.
Pitching on less then 24 hours rest, Eric Reichenbach requested the ball for the third and decisive game against the Red Men. Former Sachem coach Bill Batewell spoke to Reichenbach's father about the potential start first, he okayed it and the rest is history.
"At the time I was only concerned with winning," said Reichenbach. "Waking up that morning I felt great. After the Game 1 loss, I told him I wanted the ball. It was a really special day in my life."
On Friday May 31, Reichenbach, now the head baseball coach at Mt. Sinai High School, pitched a four-hit shutout to beat East Islip, 2-0, in Game 1. Sachem lost Game 2, 8-5, the following day and later that evening he came back and shut them out again, 3-0, throwing a no-hitter to capture the series and Sachem glory.
“It turned out to be pretty magical,” said Batewell, now the head skipper at Bellport High School. “It capped a really good season with a great bunch of kids.”
Reichenbach threw 177 pitches in two days and finished the season 10-2. Sachem was 26-5 in 1987 and eventually lost to Levittown-Division, 3-2, in the New York State Regionals four days later. Reichenbach was on the mound again, throwing over 150 pitches in the loss.
"I didn’t have my best stuff that day," he said. "Pitching three games in a five-day span was a little much. I wasn’t hurt or anything, but I didn’t have my best stuff."
The complexity of Sachem’s team in 1987 compared to today is vastly different. They had more power, more fluid hitting from the top to the bottom of the lineup and,
"That team wasn’t necessatily full of phenomenal baseball players, but it was a great group of guys," said Reichenbach. "It was full of gamers."
Of course, they had Reichenbach, who was the ultimate gamer. He later pitched at the University of Tennessee and St. John’s University before being selected by the New York Mets in the sixth round of the 1991 Major League Baseball amateur draft. He never got higher then A-ball and had a 17-16 record with a 4.06 ERA in four minor league seasons.
Aside from the no-hitter he threw in the championship, Reichenbach threw another one during the regular season, as did Bob Kohn, another senior.
“Batewell knew we had a good team and was very good about letting us be confident but also making sure we didn’t cross the line and get cocky,” said Kohn, who still lives in the Sachem community, recorded the win in the county semifinals with an 11-5 victory over Comsewogue in '87 and pitched Game 2 of the county championship on less then 48 hours of rest. “He made sure we continued to work on the fundamentals of the game. Strong fundamentals and good pitching combined with all of the talent we had in the line-up, was a good recipe for success.”
The 1987 Starting Lineup (in no specific order)
- Catcher: Wayne Wilson (head of security in Sachem)
- First Base: Chris Lamendola
- Second Base: Rob Maura (assistant coach at W. Melville)
- Third Base: Bob Leahy, Rob Cappoci
- Short Stop: Gary Comstock (assistant coach at Sachem)
- Center Field: Ralph Isernia (most recently was offensive coordinator for University of Charleston football)
- Left Field: Jim Zappulla
- Right Field: Kenny Huggins
- Starting Pitchers: Eric Reichenbach (HS coach at Mt. Sinai), Bob Kohn and Darren Villa
- Head coach: Bill Batewell (has 493 combined victories between Sachem and Bellport, ranking him fourth all-time in Suffolk history)
- Assistant coach: Dennis Dragonette
- Others: (Head coach at Floyd) and Rob Capocci (CFO at Anthony's Closets)
Sachem Baseball History
- County Championships: 1979 and 1987
- League Championships: 1963, 1964, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1984 and 2005