Matty Maurer came across the diamond and backhanded a ball headed up the middle. He transferred the ball, turned and fired a tough one-hopper to first baseman Pat Schriffen, who made the clean pick for the final out.
The defensive gem put a bow on Ryan Hynes' two-hitter and preserved Ward Melville’s 1-0 win over Connetquot Saturday in the first game of the Suffolk Class AA best-of-three finals in East Setauket.
Hynes, who improved to 7-0, went the distance. He struck out nine, allowed two walks and hit two batters. He was masterful, allowing three baserunners over the final five innings.
“I felt like everything was working today and they had no idea what was coming,” he said. “We threw inside all game and tied people up.”
Ward Melville (21-6) needed only one run to take the 1-0 series lead. The big hit came in the fourth inning. Anthony Pascale led off with a walk and Ward Melville captain Max Nielsen drove a 1-and-2 curveball to the fence for a run-scoring double. As Pascale roared around the bases to beat the two-man relay, Nielsen stopped at second base and pounded his chest in all his glory.
“That’s what we love about him,” Hynes said. “Max is our leader. And he’s an emotional guy that gets us going.”
Nielsen tried to score with two outs in the same inning on the front end of a double steal. Alex Russo was hit by a pitch and on the first pitch Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci put on the steal.
Connetquot catcher Josh McGee fired to second baseman James Goff, who relayed home to cut down the headfirst-sliding Nielsen.
The big out ignited the Connetquot bench. With two outs in the top of the fifth, junior shortstop Alex Ungar launched a 1-and-1 pitch to left centerfield that hit the middle of the home run fence and ricocheted back into play. Ungar slid safely into second base.
“It can be a game of inches,” Petrucci said. “He just missed that one.”
With first base open, Hynes went after Matty Brown, who has four game-winning hits this season. Brown stroked a line drive right at rightfielder Matt Franco, who made the catch to end the threat.
Hynes was in cruise control the rest of the way in a game that lasted just 1 hour, 37 minutes.
Connetquot senior starter Matt Goodis was also brilliant on the hill. He allowed two hits in six innings, striking out eight and walking three. He also hit two batters.
“Goodis was outstanding,” Petrucci said. “Our guy had to pitch his best game of the season for the win. This was playoff baseball at its finest. Both teams left it all out there and get to do it again Monday in Game 2.”