Kyle Rafferty smoked a two-out line drive and third baseman Jake Dannenberg was there to make the play. Dannenberg squeezed the drive for the final out, setting off a wild celebration.
Senior righty Jarred Vanderhoof scattered five hits, walked four and struck out six in a complete game effort as Longwood edged Ward Melville, 2-1, to take sole possession of first place on Tuesday in a pivotal Suffolk League I baseball game.
“It was a laser and hit right at me,” said Dannenberg, who also contributed two run-scoring singles. “We needed this win.”
Longwood improved to 11-2 and Ward Melville fell to 9-4. The Patriots had handed Longwood their only two losses of the season.
“Vanderhoof made big pitches all game,” said Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci.
And when Vanderhoof wasn’t making big pitches the Longwood defense was there to pick him up. The defense turned double plays in the second and fourth innings to stymie Ward Melville’s offense.
“I had good command and the defense has been phenomenal,” said Vanderhoof, who is 3-0. “I’m not afraid to pitch to contact because I know the defense is there to make the plays.”
Longwood took a 1-0 lead in the second. Vanderhoof and Danny Owens drew consecutive walks before Dannenberg laced a one-out RBI single to centerfield for the lead.
“[Dannenberg] was a late decision to start today and he really came through,” said Longwood coach Ryan McSherry. “We’ve been winning with different lineups and a deep bench.”
Ward Melville tied the score in the bottom of the third. Logan Doran singled with two outs and stole second. Kyle Rafferty lined a single into rightfield to tie it at 1.
“Any time you play at Ward Melville the atmosphere is intense and heated,” McSherry said. “It’s great baseball. We needed to stay focused and finally beat these guys.”
Longwood regained the lead in the sixth. Kyle Rausch reached on an error and moved to second on Vanderhoof’s sacrifice bunt. After Ward Melville starter Max Nielsen recorded the seventh of his eight strikeouts, Dannenberg drilled Nielsen’s first pitch into leftfield just out of the reach of shortstop Logan Doran. Rausch scored the game-winner well ahead of the throw home.
“It was a first-pitch fastball,” Dannenberg said. “It felt good off the bat.”
Vanderhoof ran into some trouble in the sixth but worked out of the jam. He walked Nielsen and Trevor Cronin lined a single to rightfield putting runners at first and second. Matt Mauer flied to deep right allowing Nielsen to go to third.
With the tying run on third, Cronin stole second, as pinch-hitter Drake Eggleston worked the count to 2-2. Eggleston flied to center to end the inning.
“It was a good ballgame,” Petrucci said. “Longwood is a very good team. They executed a little better than we did.”