Jake Lombardi pumped his fist as the final grounder nestled in the glove of second baseman Matt Cavanagh. He flipped to first for the victory and Division lives to play another day.
Lombardi scattered five hits, walked one and struck out 11 as Division edged Clarke, 2-1, Saturday night to even the Nassau Class A best of three series at one game each at SUNY-Old Westbury.
Lombardi locked in a pitcher’s duel with Clarke ace Brendan Turton, finished with 113 pitches. Turton threw 115 pitches and allowed six hits, three walks and struck out nine.
Division (21-4) and Clarke (24-3-1) will meet for the Class A title in Game 3 of the best of three series Monday at 5 p.m. at SUNY-Old Westbury.
Division opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Offensive catalyst Colin Diez reached on an infield error, stole second and moved to third after Hunter Traenkle walked and Mike Sullivan was hit by a pitch.
With the bases loaded and Myles Scarry, the fifth hitter in the order up, Division coach Tom Tuttle put on the suicide squeeze play. Scarry dropped a perfect bunt down the first base line allowing Diez to come home safely for the 1-0 lead.
The lead was short lived. Clarke answered in the top of the second. Pavlos Papoutsakis led off with a single and moved to second on a ground out. With two outs, Papoutsakis went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch to tie the score at 1.
It would be the last time a Clarke baserunner would see third base. Lombardi allowed two hits over the next four innings, buoyed by some excellent defense in each of the third, fifth and sixth innings.
Clarke’s Tyler Cox singled to lead off the third inning and was on the move to steal second base when Chris Giardino grounded toward shortstop. With Division shortstop Nick Rosselli covering the bag on the steal it looked like Giardino’s grounder would get through into the outfield.
Division third baseman Hunter Traenkle ranged far to his left to cut the ball off and make a strong throw to nip Giardino for the out. Lombardi would strike out the next two hitters to strand Cox at second base.
In the bottom of the third, Traenkle crushed a long one-out double off the leftfield fence and moved to third on a Sullivan single. With runners at the corners, Traenkle gave the Blue Dragons the 2-1 lead when he scored on a wild pitch.
It was more Division defense in the fifth. Diez, playing centerfield, ran down a line drive off the bat of Nick Campagnuolo for the first out and rightfielder Nick Giovanakis tracked and caught a long drive off the bat of Cox.
The defense and the right arm of Lombardi moved Division into a decisive Game 3 on Monday.