Someone forgot to tell the hitters at Longwood and Commack that they were facing two of Long Island’s finest pitching prospects.
The anticipated pitching duel between Longwood’s Tommy Ventimiglia and Commack’s Craig Pihlkar never materialized in Monday’s battle for first place in Suffolk League I.
Both teams came out swinging in a back-and-forth affair in which neither starter finished. The hard-throwing Ventimiglia battled through 5 1/3 innings to earn the win in Longwood’s 6-4 victory over visiting Commack.
The win moved Longwood into a first-place tie with Commack at 8-1.
Ventimiglia, a Stony Brook commit, was overpowering at times and had to grind through his 107-pitch outing. He scattered eight hits, walked four, allowed one earned run and struck out eight.
"I had command of my fastball," Ventimiglia said. "But my slider was a little off and they’re a really good team and battled every at-bat. They were hitting in any count."
Ventimiglia had just as much impact on the offensive side of things. He went 3-for-4 with an RBI and was robbed of an extra-base hit in the second inning.
"I worked hard all winter on my hitting," he said. "Our entire lineup put in the work, and it shows."
Pihlkar, who is headed to the University of Connecticut, struggled against the potent Longwood lineup. He gave up five hits, walked three, and allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Lou Kaleb hastened Pihlkar’s exit when he drilled a one-out, two-run home run to leftfield to give the Lions a 2-0 second-inning lead.
"He threw me a curveball first pitch and fell behind in the count and then came with the fastball," Kaleb said. "It felt great off the bat." Commack avoided the big inning but not before the stage was set for Longwood to blow it open. Rocco Hall singled and walks to Matt Dragotto and Devin Montalvo loaded the bases with two outs.
Ventimiglia lined a one-hopper over the third-base bag and only a super defensive play for the third out by Connor Schramm prevented a bigger inning.
"That was a huge defensive play," Ventimiglia said. "Both teams made big plays and in a game like this you expect that to happen."
Commack responded in the top of the third. Leadoff man Johnny Catuosco singled, his second hit of the game, stole second and scored when Connor Peterson lined an RBI single. Peterson took second on the throw home and then stole third base and scoring on a throwing error to tie it at 2.
Longwood regained the lead in the bottom of the third. Kaleb had an RBI single and Rocco Hall lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
"We had quality at-bats against a very good pitcher," coach Ryan McSherry said.
Commack tied it at 4 in the fourth but failed to forge a lead when two runners were thrown out at the plate. With two outs, Jack Lagner singled home Matt McGurk and Catuosco tried to score from second base but was nailed at the plate on a perfect throw from rightfielder Dragotto.
Longwood took the lead for good in the fourth when Preston Gerena hit a sacrifice fly to score Montalvo for a 5-4 lead.
"We’ve been getting great at-bats from Gerena and Montalvo," McSherry said. "I like the way we responded in every inning."