Ryan Palm #24 for Sachem North delivers a pitch during...

Ryan Palm #24 for Sachem North delivers a pitch during the Suffolk County Class AAA Baseball finals at Middle Country sports complex on Saturday, May 25, 2024 Credit: David Meisenholder

Sachem North and Commack have battled all season. Both baseball programs qualified for the Suffolk Class AAA tournament through Suffolk League II, arguably the toughest in the county. On Saturday, the teams met for the eighth time.

Commack, the defending Class AA champion, was one win away from a county championship repeat, while Sachem North was attempting to keep its hopes alive for its first county title in 13 years.

Starting pitcher Ryan Palm struck out five and allowed six hits in a complete-game 4-1 win over Commack to help Sachem North avoid elimination at the Middle Country Athletic Complex in Selden. The teams will meet again on Sunday at the same location at 4 p.m. The winner will hoist the county title.

“I’m familiar with their lineup and I know most of their guys,” said Palm, who improved to 8-0 in his junior season with three saves. “I felt great with my command and our defense played well. Getting the early lead really takes the pressure off.”

Sachem North opened the scoring in the top of the first inning. Leadoff man Jack Pitman dumped a single to the opposite field and Zack DeMilt followed with another single. Commack starter Ryan Krzemienski then got what looked to be a double-play grounder, but after getting the force at second, the ensuing throw to first got away and allowed Pitman to score for the 1-0 lead.

Sachem North padded its lead in the second inning. Rob Kienzle singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Niko Moraitis. John Ferrante then lined a single to left to drive in Kienzle for a 2-0 advantage.

“We know each other well and the little things are going to win these games,” Sachem North coach Tom Gambino said. “We executed on offense and we made our plays on defense. It makes the game simple when done right. And it starts when our pitcher is throwing strikes.”

Commack (16-8) finally got to Palm in the fourth. Evan Kay and Dean Vincent hit consecutive singles and Chris Messina sacrificed the runners to second and third. Max Horowitz then lifted a sacrifice fly to rightfield to make it 2-1.

But Sachem North (19-6) had a quick response. Lucas Singleton doubled with two outs in the fifth and scored on Tommy Ford’s single to make it 3-1. James Horodyski then singled prompting Commack coach Matt Salmon to remove Krzemienski and bring in Justin Pagan to shut down the North rally.

“I went with the hot hand in today’s game,” Salmon said. “And Ryan has been lights out. He threw a complete game two-hitter with nine strikeouts against them last time.”

This time Sachem North was ready. And it wasn’t ready to call it a season, forcing the winner-take-all game on Sunday.

“We let them set the tone early in the game,” Salmon said. “And we are familiar with each other.”

North added an insurance run in the seventh when Singleton led off with a single, stole second and scored on Kienzle’s two-out double to the right centerfield gap.

“We’re a very close group and we care about each other and that shows in close games,” Palm said. “We all pick each other up and that’s why we’re one win away from a championship.”


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