Chris Weiss hopped off the mound and into the confines of the Longwood dugout. The junior was more than happy to find a dry spot on the bench. He'd overcome brutal weather conditions to pitch six shutout innings and lead Longwood past Ward Melville, 8-0, Monday in a Suffolk League I baseball opener.
"I couldn't wait to get off the field,'' Weiss said. "I was soaked and freezing out there. It was a very big game to start the season, and I wanted the chance to pitch and get us that first win.''
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Weiss was outstanding, allowing four hits, walking three and striking out seven.
The hard-throwing righthander was locked in a pitchers' duel with Ward Melville sophomore righthander Joe Flynn in a game that was scoreless through four innings. Then Camden Orologio drilled a three-run double and Kenny Johntry lined a run-scoring single in an eight-run fifth.
The teams dealt with a constant wintry mix that pelted the field from the first pitch and, at times, brought squalls of rain.
"The elements were the same for both teams,'' Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci said. "They persevered and made the big plays and got the key outs and we didn't.''
Weiss denied Ward Melville in the fourth and fifth when the Patriots threatened.
Freshman Nick Vitale led off the fourth with a walk and stole second. But Weiss bore down against the heart of the Patriots' order, striking out Flynn, Chris Cepeda and Gregg Coman.
"That was a huge inning for him,'' Petrucci said. "And we let an opportunity slip away.''
Ward Melville had runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth. This time Weiss struck out Ryan Shields.
"Shields fouled off four two-strike pitches in a very good at- bat,'' Petrucci said. "But Weiss won the battle because his catcher had the confidence in him to throw a two-strike curveball. That was the momentum swing right there.''
With a slick, muddied ball and a long way to the backstop, Johntry called for the curve and Weiss delivered the pitch down and away for the third strike.
"He does a great job behind the plate and I know I can throw that pitch at any time,'' Weiss said. "He's like a human backstop. I can throw it in the dirt and he'll block it. So I throw it with confidence.''
Flynn cruised into the bottom of the fifth before being undone by his defense. After a leadoff walk, the Patriots botched a sacrifice bunt, putting runners at first and second. Another infield error allowed the first run to score and Andruw Gazzola drew a bases-loaded walk for a 2-0 lead.
"The wheels came off right there,'' Petrucci said. "It was our worst inning in my seven years as head coach.''
And Weiss made the lead stand up. "We had a guy come into my office and ask for the ball for the opener,'' Longwood coach Dave Delfranco said. "And then he went out and stayed ahead of the hitters, pitched to location and braved the elements. He was very good in an important game. That's the way you start a season.''