Every kid dreams of getting the clutch hit and leading his team to the big win. Two super sophomores came through in the biggest spot of their young careers on Tuesday. Tim McHugh and Jake Krzemienski roped back-to-back singles to bring Commack within a win of the Suffolk Class AA baseball title.
Krzemienski’s hard, one-out single to rightfield scored a streaking Jake Jacobs from second base to cap a wild two-run ninth inning rally as Commack came back to edge West Islip, 2-1, in walk-off fashion in the first game of the best-of-three series at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip.
Commack (22-3) will play at West Islip (19-7) Wednesday in Game 2 of the series at 4 p.m. West Islip is making its third appearance in four years in the Class AA championship.
“It was an 0-1 fastball and I thought the first baseman made the play,” said Krzemienski, who came out of the celebratory dogpile at second base unscathed. “What a great feeling.”
The excitement of the ninth inning was in direct contrast to the first eight frames. The teams sped through those eight innings in just more than an hour and 20 minutes. Dueling righthanders Joe Valentino of West Islip and Peter Theodorellis of Commack were locked in and matched zeros.
Commack didn’t advance a runner past first base and managed only two hits off Valentino. West Islip didn’t fare much better against Theodorellis. Kyle O’Neill had both Lions hits and the rest of the team went 0-for-22.
It all changed in the ninth inning.
West Islip forged a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning. Greg Tsouprakos launched a two-out double and Anthony Ippolito walked. Theodorellis was removed after his pitch count soared to 126. He left to a standing ovation.
“He’s all about heart and how bad do you want to win out there,” Commack coach Bryan Bonin said. “He’s one of our senior leaders. He and Valentino were unbelievable.”
Theodorellis went 8 2/3 innings and allowed three hits, two walks and struck out seven.
Valentino greeted Krzemienski, a lefthander, with a single to leftfield to score Tsouprakos for the 1-0 lead.
Commack didn’t flinch.
Valentino, whose pitch count was at 111, did not come out for the ninth, as West Islip coach Shawn Rush went to righty Kyle O’Neill to close it. Valentino extended his scoreless innings streak to 21 2/3 in the playoffs.
“Valentino could not have pitched better,” Rush said. “And we let him down. We made some baserunning mistakes and we couldn’t get the big hit.”
After O’Neill struck out the first batter in the ninth, Jason Salerno singled and Jacobs walked. putting runners at first and second. McHugh’s one-out, line-drive single to leftfield scored Salerno to tie the score at 1.
“He’s been clutch all season,” Bonin said. “For a young guy, he’s very comfortable in those situations.”
McHugh, who just missed a home run in the seventh inning, crushed a 2-and-2 fastball that was out over the plate.
“I just missed one in an earlier at bat,” McHugh said. “This one, I hit well.”
Krzemienski followed with the game-winner.
And Commack is one win away from the title.