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.