Ken Rotunno was looking for that one pitch. The one he could drive into the gap somewhere in the outfield at East Islip.
Half Hollow Hills West starter T.J. Montalbano, who had been masterful through five innings, was looking to pitch carefully to Rotunno and not give the East Islip slugger anything too good to hit.
"One pitch in the wrong spot and he crushed it," Hills West coach Tom Migliozzi said. "We were trying to throw him outside, way off the plate, and we gave him too good of a pitch."
Rotunno drove a 1-and-1 fastball to deep right-centerfield for a one-out, two-run triple to snap a tie and send East Islip past Half Hollow Hills West, 5-1, Wednesday in a battle for first place in Suffolk League IV. The win came a day after Hills West pounded the Redmen, 9-0, in the opener of a three-game set.
"This was a huge game," East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. "It sets up an even bigger meeting in the final game of the series. I liked that we responded well after a poor effort on Tuesday."
That was largely because junior righthander David Palmer was outstanding. The four-year varsity starter was in command of all four pitches and held Hills West, which had 16 hits on Tuesday, to five hits and one earned run.
"I kept the ball low and I hit my spots," said Palmer, who struck out five and walked none to improve to 4-0. "I had good movement on the fastball."
East Islip (9-2) took a 1-0 lead in the third when Brandon Dowd doubled to rightfield and scored on a Paul Dondero single.
Hills West (6-2) tied the score in the sixth when Luke Stampfl singled and scored on a one-out double by Jonah Glickstein. Palmer escaped further damage when he recorded a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning with Glickstein on third.
"He pitched out of some tough spots in the second and sixth innings," Ciampi said. "That's what a guy with his experience can do. The moment wasn't too big for him."
Montalbano, who struck out five and scattered five hits through five innings, hit Steve Rosenvold with a pitch and walked Nick Osburn with one out in the sixth.
Two pitches later, Rotunno launched his winning hit and scored when the relay throw hit him on his way to third base and went into dead ball territory, making the score 4-1.
"The pitch was right in the wheelhouse and I turned on it," Rotunno said. "I kept running to third, just trying to be aggressive on the bases, and didn't even feel the throw hit me. This was a big game for us."