Alex Czarnomski is not bothered by the pressure of late-inning relief appearances. For the third time this week the junior righthander found himself right in the thick of a close game — in extra innings.
"I love closing games," Czarnomski said. "It’s an awesome feeling to be in control of the outcome."
On Thursday Czarnomski worked his late-inning magic. He retired nine of 10 batters over three scoreless innings as West Islip came back for a 5-3 win over previously undefeated Newfield in nine innings in a Suffolk Conference III baseball game. The win moved West Islip into a first-place tie with Newfield at 6-1.
The Lions scored two unearned runs in the top of the ninth for the win.
"He really likes to be in the spot with the ball in his hand late in games," West Islip coach Shawn Rush said. "He’s very confident and we trust him. He’s rewarded our confidence in him with three straight extra-inning wins."
Czarnomski earned wins over Centereach and Bellport earlier this week.
His late-inning heroics were set up by junior Jake Rivera, who threw six innings of two-hit ball. Rivera allowed three unearned runs, walked one and struck out three.
"Jake couldn’t locate his first time out," Rush said. "He was so much better today and kept Newfield off balance. We played them deep in the outfield and they lifted quite a few fly balls."
Rivera, who mixed his changeup with a sweeping curveball, got a lot of help from a speedy outfield that collected nine flyouts.
"This was a great bounce- back game for me," Rivera said. "I got rocked by Hauppauge in my first outing and this one feels so much better. I had command of all my pitches and the defense played great."
One of those outfielders was sophomore centerfielder Vin Greco, who had six putouts.
"It felt good to get an opportunity to contribute for my team," Greco said. "I definitely love playing. I got a great jump on some of those fly balls in the outfield gaps. Newfield hit the ball very hard."
Newfield took a 2-0 first-inning lead when Shane Callahan lifted a deep fly that was lost in the sun in rightfield that allowed two runs to score.
West Islip cut the lead in half when Matt Marmo walked and Czarnomski drilled a two-out, run-scoring double to make it 2-1. The Lions tied it in the fourth when Frank Romano reached on an infield error and Frank Rega hit a run-scoring double.
The Wolverines regained the lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth. Evan Rodriguez reached on an outfield error and Joe Hackal smoked a one-out, opposite-field, run-scoring triple for the 3-2 lead.
The Lions tied it at 3 in the seventh when Newfield starter Kendall Kendrick spiked a two-out wild pitch. Kendrick had been brilliant, pitching seven innings and allowing six hits, three walks and striking out 11.
"We stay in games and win late," Rush said. "It’s not easy but it works."