Ward Melville and Half Hollow Hills West squared off in a Suffolk Class AA first round playoff game Monday in East Setauket. Each program sent their staff’s ace to the mound in pursuit of a win in the new playoff format in Suffolk baseball.

Neither Ward Melville junior Ben Brown nor Hills West junior Brad Camarda would be around for the end of an intense nine inning affair.

The outcome of this one was left in the hands of the relief pitching of both schools. Ward Melville junior Matt Hudzik fired three scoreless innings as No. 6 Ward Melville edged No. 11 Hills West 5-4 in the Suffolk AA playoffs.

Ward Melville will meet No. 3 Smithtown East Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Hudzik allowed two hits and struck out two in another brilliant relief appearance for the Patriots (15-6).

“We determined early in the season that this would be my role on the team,” said Hudzik who improved to 5-0. “I love coming in with the game on the line, I feel this is where I belong and I have the confidence to bring home the win. Today, I was feeling it, my 12-to-6 curveball and my slider were both on.”

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Ward Melville won it in the bottom of the ninth without hitting the ball out of the infield. First baseman Dom Lamonica, who went 3-for-4 with a walk, skied a pop-up to center, which heavy winds blew back into the second base area for a wind-blown single. “The wind has been difficult here all season,” Lamonica said. “I hit it pretty good and it was caught up in the wind, but I was surprised when it landed safely.”

Troy Davern walked to move Lamonica to second and after a strikeout the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out and the infield in, Logan Doran hit a hard grounder up the middle that shortstop Peter Jacobs snared. Lamonica, who broke from third on contact, easily beat Jacobs throw home for the game winner.

“This was a well-played game and the team that played better defense won,” Hills West coach Tom Migliozzi said.

Ward Melville opened the scoring in the bottom of the third when Lamonica drove a 0-and-1 pitch to right-centerfield for a run scoring double. A perfect relay from rightfielder Errol Parker to shortstop Frank Tricamo to catcher Ed Popolizio nailed Nick Vitale at the plate.

Ward Melville’s 1-0 lead was short lived. Brown, who allowed only one hit through the first three innings, was hit hard in the fourth, as the hard throwing righthander let up three runs on five hits. Colts first baseman Sean Legurnic keyed the rally with a two-run single and Popolizio added a two-out double to score Ethan McMenamy, who tripled.

Hills West (12-9) allowed two unearned in the bottom of the fourth tying the game at 3.

“Our guys know how to win,” Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci said. “And it does not hurt to have a great relief pitcher like Matt Hudzik.