They lined up eight baseball teams in a horseshoe around the turf infield on Diamond No. 4 of the Moriches Sports Complex. The 133 players and coaches that surrounded the family of Bob Ambrosini, Suffolk’s all-time winningest baseball coach, observed a moment of silence.
Sal Mignano, the director of baseball for the Town of Brookhaven, kicked off the Coaches Memorial, with a touching speech in an event dedicated to the memory of Suffolk coaching legends Carmine Argenziano of Deer Park, Bill Batewell of Sachem and Bellport and Ambrosini of Connetquot.
The three head coaches died while high school baseball was on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. Argenziano and Batewell died from complications of COVID-19.
The official opening ceremony commenced Saturday afternoon with Bob Ambrosini’s wife, Cathy, and her two sons, Robert and Anthony, delivering ceremonial first-pitch strikes.
"It went better than could be expected," Mignano said. "We have all 55 high school teams involved. And we have family members for Argenziano and Batewell here for the start of the later games. We’d like to make this an annual event and recognize the people who have had a great impact on our student-athletes."
Four games started at 2 p.m., the main event between West Islip and Eastport-South Manor.
That game did not disappoint as West Islip roared back for a 6-5 come-from-behind win in the season opener for both teams.
"There was an intensity and an atmosphere that was fairly unusual for the first game of the season," West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. "I like the way we came back to win."
Senior Matt Gordon lined a one-out, full-count pitch for a two-run single in the top of the sixth to erase a 5-4 deficit. Gordon’s drive scored pinch runner Vince Greco and Nolan Walters for the lead.
"I was looking for a fastball and it was a good inside pitch," Gordon said. "But I muscled it out there. What a great start to the season."
Eastport-South Manor jumped all over starter Josh Piht for a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Rich Stanya walked, Drew McGowan reached on an error and Jake Deslauriers drilled a two-run double. Deslauriers scored when Peter Devito followed with a run-scoring double.
West Islip answered right away in the top of the second. The Lions loaded the bases and with two outs, before Piht, the nine-hitter, lined a 2-and-2 fastball to rightfield for a bases-clearing triple, to tie the score at 3.
"Piht had just given up three runs in a rough first inning and got up in a critical situation and put the failure aside to get the big hit," Rush said. "That tells me a lot about his character."
Leadoff hitter Matt Marmo added a run-scoring single to knock in Piht and give the Lions a 4-3 lead.
Eastport-South Manor regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Deslauriers hit his second double and Devito was walked. Rush removed Piht and brought in Gordon to relieve.
The righthander got a popup for the second out but Connor Marcello smacked a two-run double to leftfield to give the Sharks a 5-4 lead.
That lead was also short lived. Eastport coach Jim McGowan replaced starter Jake Deslauriers with reliever Connor Marcello in the top of the sixth.
Deslauriers had been overpowering. He struck out 12, allowed one hit, one walk and hit a batter through five innings.
But with one out in the sixth, Matt Sandoval singled and was removed for Greco, the pinch runner. Nolan Walters added a single and pinch-hitter Joe Piropato worked a full-count walk to load the bases.
"The walk was so important," Rush said. "And it gave Gordon a chance to redeem himself after allowing the two runs in relief."
Gordon and Piht, both hitting in the ninth spot of the batting order accounted for five total RBIs.
"If you told me before the game that we would get that kind of production from the nine-hole, no matter who hit there," Rush said. "I would have never believed it. We changed the lineup on the bus to let our pitchers hit and not use a DH and it worked out."
That coaching decision was a winner.