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Tom Hudzik

Patriots shut out Smithtown in double-elimination game

By Bill Landon

Logan Doran delivered.

The Ward Melville player homered in the first inning, and drove in two runs in the second to give the No. 1 Patriots baseball team a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Smithtown East May 23, to advance to the Class AA semifinals.

Doran said he was looking for his pitch to set the tone early.

“It was a 2-0 fastball, and I was looking fastball dead red,” he said. “I saw it high and in, and just took a big swing on it. I didn’t think it was out. I was just running and then I heard my first base coach say it’s out.”

Ward Melville threatened two batters later, when Joseph Rosselli singled into shallow left, and Michael Sepe found the gap with two outs, but Smithtown East pitcher Nick Harvey fanned the last batter to strand the runners.

With two outs, Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia singled in the top of the second, Ward Melville catcher Tom Hudzik fired the ball to his twin brother Matt at second base to catch him on a steal attempt. The strike arrived in plenty of time for Matt Hudzik to apply the tag.

“They’re a hard-hitting team — they hit well last year and they came back and are hitting even better this year,” Tom Hudzik said. “It was Logan’s home run that got the momentum going.”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Cronin singled to start things off. James Curcio followed with a fly ball to right field to put runners on the corners.

Again, Doran was the difference maker as he blasted the ball to right, plating Cronin and Curcio for a 3-0 lead.

“We played them [twice] and we knew what we were coming into,” Doran said. “We had to stay focused like we did the first two games. Just come out hot — that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think our team played great, and we just got to keep it rolling.”

The Patriots defense was just as potent as their bats, and the boys turned a double play in the top of the third for the first two outs. Later in the inning, with a runner on base, Hudzik sent another laser throw to his brother, who again waited for the runner to end the inning.

Ward Melville pitcher Max Nielson kept the Bulls at bay the rest of the way, spreading 76 pitches over the seven innings with four strikeouts and allowing just three hits in his shutout performance. It was the second playoff victory of his varsity career.

“The key to winning today was our defense,” Nielsen said. “But Logan’s base-hit knock sealed the deal.”

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci also had high words of praise for Doran.

“He’s our captain ,and that’s what captains do,” he said. “That home run in the first gave us momentum.”

But he also gave other credit where due.

“Max pitched a heck of a game,” Petrucci said. “He kept their lead-off batter off base — he made quality pitches and you’ve got to give the guy credit.”

It was the third time these teams faced each other this postseason, each giving the other its first loss to send them into the double-elimination bracket.

“Bottom line is they played a little bit better than us, and they deserved to win,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Ward Melville. “Our kids hung in there — we had a very nice season — and I’m proud of them.”

Ward Melville hosted the first of a three-game series on Wednesday against No. 4 West Islip, but results were not available by press time. The two teams will face off again on the Lions’ home turf May 25, at 4 p.m. The finals are set for May 31 at Stony Brook University, 3 p.m.

This version was updated to correctly identify the second baseman as Matt Hudzik.

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Chris Buehler hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Just call on Joseph Rosselli to get the job done.

Tom Hudzik lays down the bunt while Joseph Rosselli races across home plate for a 2-0 lead. Photo by Bill Landon

Ahead 1-0, the race was on for the Ward Melville senior who was attempting a move that hadn’t been successfully completed since 2006. With a big leap off third, he rushed toward home following a successful Tom Hudzik bunt for a suicide squeeze that put the Patriots up 2-0 en route to a 4-2 win over Brentwood May 1.

“Coach Lou [Petrucci] brought us in and told us he wanted to attempt it,” Rosselli said. “The batter’s got to make contact with the ball because if he doesn’t, I’m out 100 times out of 100, so the pressure was on Tom Hudzik, and he came up big for us today.”

As the Brentwood catcher chased down the dribbler, Rosselli snuck across the plate, and although Hudzik was tagged out, his job was done.

Brentwood responded in the top of the second when Cooper Maselli blasted a home run over left center to make it a one-run game. A shot to center field that caused a collision placed the tying run at first, but starting left-handed pitcher Chris Buehler fanned the next two batters to extinguish the threat.

“I had my stuff, but I was leaving some pitches up,” Buehler said. “I got them down and then I felt I could go the distance. They had their ace throwing hard, good pitches — good curves, so we just had to get a couple of runs.”

James Curcio dives to make a catch in center field. Photo by Bill Landon

Petrucci had all the confidence in his starter.

“He’s a competitor and an outstanding young man,” the head coach said. “He’s not fazed by these big situations.”

Even after Brentwood made it a new game with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth, and Maselli threatened to make matters worse for Ward Melville with a shot to deep center that after some debate wound up a ground-rule double with no outs, Buehler made sure Maselli never made it further than third. Then, his Patriots worked to get those runs he was talking about.

“Chris Buehler struck out three good hitters,” Petrucci said. “He concentrated. He’s been a great force for us this year — he’s 4-0 so far — he’s our Monday guy.”

After a base hit by junior Trevor Cronin, sophomore Max Nielson smacked a ground-rule double of his own. With two outs, a walk was drawn to load the bases, and Rosselli moved into the batter’s box. The senior waited for his pitch, and jumped on a fastball. He sent it deep to right field for a two-run double and a 4-2 lead.

Brentwood made three running errors over the next two innings, and Ward Melville’s defense made its opponent pay each time to preserve the lead.

“Once we give our dominant pitching staff a lead, it’s almost always a solidified [win],” Rosselli said. “So once we got that 4-2 lead, everyone settled down a little We put our faith in our pitchers, and that’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

Vinny Pepitone grabs the ball before tagging out the runner. Photo by Bill Landon

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Logan Doran brings home Dominic Lamonica just before the tag to give the Patriots an opening-round playoff win

By Bill Landon

With both teams tied at four runs apiece, it wasn’t until the bottom of the ninth inning when Ward Melville’s Logan Doran smacked an infield grounder that sent teammate Dominic Lamonica racing and diving for home plate just ahead of the tag, to win the opening round of the Class AA playoffs, 5-4, against Half Hollow Hills West Monday afternoon.

“This is a great bunch of kids they play hard all the time and that’s a great baseball team over there — Hills West, they’re well-coached by a Hall of Fame coach, but our kids did a great job,” said Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci. “We battled back and we didn’t panic when we were down 3-1, and the kids got some clutch hits.”

Ward Melville’s Lamonica also struck first for his team, when he hit the ball to right field, driving in Brandon Lee for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.

After starting pitcher Ben Brown let up just one hit in the first three innings, Hills West made him pay in the top of the fourth.

With a runner on first, Hills West drove the ball deep to center field that bounced over the fence, triggering a ground-rule double that put both runners in scoring position. A single to right field plated both runners, to give the Colts a 2-1 lead, but Lee followed with a pick-off at second for the second out to stop the bleeding. It didn’t last for long though, as the Colts smacked a shot to deep right field for a sliding triple, and the next batter drove the runner home.

“We’ve had games like this one all year long — fighting right to the end — so when we come into big moments like this we’re more prepared than other teams,” Lamonica said. “[Hills West is] a great team. Their pitching was phenomenal — they have one of the best pitchers in Suffolk County. We were able to barrel a few balls off of him, get a few runs and they were able to do the same against Ben [Brown].”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the fourth, and Troy Davern started it off when he ripped an infield heater, and after a defensive bobble, beat the throw to first. Tom Hudzik stepped into the batters’ box next and drilled a long ball to right center field that bounced over the fence for the second ground-rule double of the game — moving Davern over to third. Nick Rizzi’s bat spoke next, and he hit an infield grounder that seemed to be a sure out, but Hills West made a throwing error to first, which plated Davern and Hudzik to tie the game 3-3. Rizzi stole second base, but was left stranded when the Colts retired the side.

With a runner on first, Hills West hit a stand-up double that put the runners in scoring position. The Colts finished the job with a rip to shallow left field that knocked in the opponent on third, to give the team a 4-3 edge in the top of the fifth.

The Patriots missed the opportunity to take the lead, and went down swinging with two runners on base. But Ward Melville was able to plate one more in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a new game, and Tom Hudzik’s twin brother Matt took over the mound looking for the win.

“I’ve been in this situation multiple times this season, and every time I go [out there] I just have to throw strikes,” Matt Hudzik said. “I’ve got seven guys behind me that I know will make plays for me.”

Ward Melville missed another opportunity when the Patriots drew a walk to load the bases in the top of the eighth, and went down swinging.

After Matt Hudzik pitched three scoreless innings, the game came down to the bottom of the ninth.

“Matt Hudzik has been stalwart — he’s got five wins [now] out of the bullpen,” Petrucci said. “It was a great [showing by] Matt Hudzik and Ben Brown, who kept us in the game.”

Lamonica led off the inning with a routine pop-up that nobody called for, and the wind blew the ball as it dropped down for a charity single. Davern followed by drawing a walk, and after a strikeout, both runners advanced on a wild pitch. With runners on second and third now, Doran stepped into the batters’ box with two outs.

“I was in the same situation in the last game I played, and I didn’t get it done,” Doran said. “But I knew I’d get it done today in a big game.”

Lamonica, with a healthy lead, waited as Doran battled in the box, fouling several pitches before the count was full. Then, Doran drilled a ground ball up the middle to the shortstop, who fielded it cleanly and threw to home plate. But Lamonica had the lead, and beat the throw home for the game-winning run as the players rush to the diamond to pile up in celebration.

“You really don’t know the magnitude of the situation you’re in until you’re out of it,” Matt Hudzik said. “And it’s a great feeling once you’re out of it.”

No. 6 Ward Melville advances to take on No. 3 Smithtown East on the road May 17, at 4:15 p.m.